London Marathon: Holding holds on to win fourth wheelchair title

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No runner can match the competitive span of Britain's 28-year- old David Holding, who took a record fourth Flora London Wheelchair Marathon title yesterday in a sprint finish which matched that of the men and women's races, writes Mike Rowbottom.

Holding, an accountant from Kettering, is also the current Paralympic 100 metres champion and world record holder. But, as he rounded the final turn in company with three rivals, the question was whether he could make that natural speed tell after an exhausting tactical battle.

And the answer was: yes. Driving his huge arms onwards, Holding pulled away from Hakan Ericsson, the Swede who took the 100m silver in Atlanta and who won in London in 1990. The Briton won by a second in one hour 42min, 15sec, the second- fastest time recorded in London.

Tanni Grey, Britain's Paralympic champion and world record holder, was denied her fourth win in seven years by an astonishing display from Sweden's Monica Wetterstrom.

Having made a late entry to the event after a period of retirement, the Swede took an early lead, staying with the first group of men until the half-way point. She finished in a record time of 1:49.09, a course record by 11 minutes and enough to earn her ninth place overall. Grey lowered her own London best to 2:00.06 in finishing second.

More than 29,000 competitors took part in the 17th London Marathon - a record - and most benefited from ideal weather conditions, with little wind and temperatures rising to 15C in the shade by 3pm.

Among those who took full advantage was a 72-year-old Frenchman, Christophe Hubert, who won the over-70 category in a time of 3:29.37.

Sadly, not everyone was able to use the weather to best advantage. Among the drop-outs was Jerry Lawson, of the United States, who departed at the half-way stage with tight calves.

Gary Staines, one of the four leading Britons, withdrew after six miles with a pulled calf muscle. The reasons behind the disappearance of the Italian runner Bettina Sabatini must remain a mystery - she was officially described as being "too upset to give any information".

As for Dale Warrander of New Zealand, he pulled a hamstring at 13 miles "but struggled on to 17 miles before dropping out."

One has to ask: why?

LONDON MARATHON Men's wheelchair: 1 D Holding (GB) 1:42:15; 2 H Ericsson (Swe) 1:42:16; 3 I Newman (GB) 1:42:18. Women's wheelchair: 1 M Wetterstrom (Swe) 1:49:09; 2 T Grey (GB) 2:00:06; 3 R Hill (GB) 2:03:56.