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October 31, 2008

Kurt Fearnley

Mary Wittenberg

Shelly Woods


MARY WITTENBERG: Ladies and gentlemen, our commitment several years ago when we began our professional wheelchair race was to strive to make it the best ever. Thanks to the athlete response from professional athletes who graced us with their presence over the last few years, I think this is the world's best professional wheelchair race. We've got a super field this year. For an introduction, let's look to the video.
(Video shown.)
MARY WITTENBERG: I can't talk about how good our professional wheelchair race is without talking about Bob Laufer. Let's give an extra shout-out to Bob Laufer who really is the driving force behind recruiting these great athletes here and to show that they're taken care of in a world-class manner.
It's always a good day when your defending champions agree to come back, your silver medalists agree to come back, your bronze medalists agree to come back. Today we have several athletes here. You'll have time to speak with several afterwards. I especially want to call out that Hiroyuki Yamamoto is here. As you saw, last year's third place on the men's side. Masazumi Soejima is here; Christie Dawes is here. I believe they're all in the back.
Up here to speak to us today, first I'm going to begin with Shelly. Shelly Woods, a Brit, two-time bridesmaid here in New York, finishing in the silver medal position each of the last two years. Shelly, we welcome you back to New York. We have a good British contingent this year. We've got Shelly and Paula Radcliffe and we've got Hayley Haining, and all three women are here to represent the Brits in New York. We welcome you back. Is this the year you're going to steal it from defending champion Edith Hunkeler?
SHELLY WOODS: Well, I always love to come race in New York. I think it's one of the toughest marathons in the world. I'd love to win this race like it would be, you know, one of the biggest goals that I'd set for myself. It's been a busy year. I'm certainly going to go out there and be a racer tomorrow and give it my best shot. I've come second here twice two years in a row. You know, I'd love to win this race, but who knows, I think we've got a really, really strong field on Sunday, and most of these girls were in Beijing. So it will be a really, really good race, and I'm just going to go out there and give it my best shot.
MARY WITTENBERG: Kurt, 27 years old, the two-time defending champion here in New York, the course record holder at 1:29:22. He's the man to beat. Won Paralympics in Beijing, just won Chicago. Welcome back. How are you feeling coming back to New York with all the pressure on you?
KURT FEARNLEY: Yeah, I don't really feel much pressure. I never really feel much pressure. It's great to be back, though. I love New York. I think this is hands-down my favorite city, and it's always handy to come back here, and this is the best marathon on the planet. It's always great to come back.
Bob Laufer, again, you've done a great job with the field. You every year work tirelessly for the wheelchair division. And thanks again, Mary, for supporting Bob and letting him do what he does.
KURT FEARNLEY: It's going to be an interesting race. It's good to have Zoe back and Krige, and this is a good strong field and you never know what marathon day will present to you, so I've just got to take it as it comes. I know you're always one wrong decision away from coming in second or third place, so I'm going to turn up on Sunday willing to do what I've done over the last couple years and just play it as it comes.
RICHARD FINN: We'll take a question or two from the floor for any of our wheelchair athletes, and again, they will be all available in the back once we break it down.

Q. Traditionally for runners the hardest part is the 20th mile when they say they hit the wall. I just wondering for the wheelers, what is the hardest part for you on the marathon course?
KURT FEARNLEY: For me it's the gun, going up the Verrazano Bridge. That's the place the last two years where I've been able to break away and got my lead, and that's the place I grit my teeth and you kind of treat it as if it's your last hill, and it so happens to be the first few hundred meters. That's a really tough point, and also when you turn around and come back up 5th Avenue. You think you're almost home but then you turn left and it feels like you climb for about two miles, and that place there is also -- it's a bit of a heartbreaker.
SHELLY WOODS: For me it's the same. The Verrazano, that's a bit of a monster of a climb. And usually it's where the race is decided from the gun. And from the past two years, because I know after that climb, there's a really fast downhill. I've tried to go up as hard as I can to make sure I'm in the mix when we go down the other side. So I just try and climb as hard as I can and see who comes with me.
But also, when you come into Central Park in the last four, five miles, it's pretty tough. There's a few climbs, and you know you're almost home but you're not quite there, and you just want to get through it. You're burning, as well. No, just keep racing on and get home.

Q. Kurt, last year you had a pretty exhausting year and you did 11 marathons and you still came out on top in New York. This year you've cut it down quite a bit. Do you think that will make a difference?
KURT FEARNLEY: I hope so. I've been feeling a little fresher this year. I was able to conserve a bit in Chicago and it was 11 marathon starts and I got my tenth win here in New York, one second place in London. This year I only did four marathons, I think, so I have a lot lesser Ks in my arms, and hopefully it will show on Sunday.
RICHARD FINN: Again, we thank all the wheelchair athletes.

End of FastScripts

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