Wheelchair racer Lakatos plans to compete in marathon at 2020 Paralympics
Canadian draws on speed to win men's race in Berlin on Sunday
For more than 41 kilometres of Sunday's Berlin Marathon, Canadian wheelchair racer Brent Lakatos battled it out in a group of more than a dozen.
Then for the final kilometre, one of the world's best sprinters drew on his speed.
The 38-year-old from Dorval, Que., captured his first marathon win in Germany, adding the title to the dozens of major victories he owns, in virtually every distance from the 100 metres up.
"I made my move with probably 800 or 900 metres to go and sprinted off then, and I ended up winning by three seconds," Lakatos said Monday. "So the sprint work allowed me to open up that small gap just at the end.
"I never expected to win it, and so it was surprise when I crossed the finish line and nobody passed me just before it. Lots of shock and happiness."
Lakatos crossed in one hour 29 minutes 41 seconds, and just 12 seconds separated the first 10 racers.
His strong finish erased any doubts about racing the marathon at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, which is traditionally on the last day of the Games. But Lakatos isn't moving up to the marathon, as so many distance runners do. He's simply adding it to his repertoire — he's considering racing at every distance in Tokyo.
"I don't know at this point, but maybe," he said. "We have to see the schedule and everything."
Lakatos has seven Paralympic medals, including gold in the 100 metres at the 2016 Rio Games, and 16 world championship medals.
Paraplegic since age 6
Racing at so many distances in one Games would be all but impossible for a runner. But the precedent has been set in wheelchair racing — American Tatyana McFadden, Lakatos pointed out, won five medals at the Rio Paralympics, four gold on the track and a silver in the marathon.
"In wheelchair racing, you're obviously using your arms, which are a much smaller muscle group than legs, and so they recover much faster," Lakatos explained. "You can do a heavy load on one day and still have an intense session the next day."
Lakatos races in the T53 category for athletes with full use of their arms but limited or no trunk function. He's been a paraplegic since a skating accident when he was six. He fell head-first into the boards, which caused a blood clot in his spine.
He lives and trains in Loughborough, England, with his wife Stefanie Reid, a Paralympian who competes in sprints and long jump for Great Britain.
"She ran around the course [Sunday] to four different points to cheer me on, and I did hear her," Lakatos said.
Lakatos, meanwhile, will take a break before resuming training.
Balancing track races, marathon
He plans to race the Tokyo marathon in March which will be held on a similar course to the 2020 Paralympics.
The world para athletics championships are next fall in Dubai, and Lakatos noticed his starts and acceleration in track races have suffered because of his focus on marathon racing this season.
The next few months will be about figuring out how to balance both.
"It's going to be tricky but I'm going to find a way to fit the track practice in with marathoning," he said.
His victory highlighted a strong day for Canadians. Rachel Cliff of Vancouver finished 11th in her marathon debut, and her time of 2:28.53 was less than a minute back of Lanni Marchant's Canadian record of 2:28.00 she set in 2013.
Two Canadian women set national age group records. Lyndsay Tessier broke the W40 record by just under three minutes, finishing 12th overall in 2:30.47. And 47-year-old Catherine Watkins ran 2:40.11 to break the W45 record by nine seconds.