Rheed McCracken breaking his T34 100m world record and Madison de Rozario equalling the T53/54 1500m world record were just two of the outstanding performances by Australian wheelchair racers in Switzerland over the weekend.
At the World Para Athletics Grand Prix (GP) in Nottwil, the biggest wheelchair competition outside of the World Championships and Paralympics, all six Australians set at least one personal best (PB) and two Australian records were set in addition to the new world marks.
Newcastle-based McCracken knew he was in good form but did not expect to break his own world record.
“After doing a PB in the 200m [26.54s] I knew I was a chance to go quick in the 100m but I didn’t expect to go 14.80,” the 21-year-old said.
“It’s almost a year ago to the day since my world record in Arbon [14.92s)]. We [McCracken and his coach Andrew Dawes] were hoping for just under 15 [seconds] here this year.
“It did feel like everything just came together on the day. I came here knowing I had done the work and not much to lose. My training’s been a bit up and down due to no World Championships this year and no Comm Games for me. We have been doing a lot of base training but not a lot of racing so it was a great chance to see where we are at ahead of Worlds next year and the Tokyo Paralympics in two years’ time.”
McCracken, who was the 100m silver medallist at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics and 2017 World Championships, is determined to be on top of the podium in 2019 and 2020.
Off the back of her two Commonwealth Games gold medals and London marathon win, de Rozario had the form to upset some of the biggest names in the sport. The 24-year-old certainly made her mark with three wins from three starts and equalled a world record, across the three-day GP.
The T53 competitor equalled the 1500m T53/54 world record of 3:13.27 set by American superstar Tatyana McFadden (T54) in 2015.
De Rozario’s coach Louise Sauvage explained how the thrilling race unfolded.
“Both the Americans needed to set fast times, so they went out hard,” Sauvage said from Nottwil.
“Tatyana [McFadden, USA] set it up on the first lap, then Manuela [Schar, SUI] on the second, Susannah [Scaroni, USA] on the third and then Madison made her move and pulled out with just over 200m to go.
“It was a fantastic win and to have the same time and equal the world record was amazing. Madison did her bit, but she couldn’t have done it without the other girls.”
Local star Schar was second (3:14.10), Scaroni third (3:14.32), with Paralympic and world champion McFadden in fourth (3:14.69).
In the 5000m on the final day of competition, de Rozario went head-to-head with the Americans and Swiss T54 competitors again. This time the Australian made her move to the front over the final few laps and tried to hang on.
“I definitely thought I was going to get caught coming around (the last 200m) as these girls are all incredibly strong, but I managed to hold off to the line so I’m really happy with that race,” de Rozario told www.paralympic.org.
The Australian fought hard for the win in 11 minutes 22.35 seconds with Schar (11:22.56) second, Scaroni (11:22.58) in third and McFadden fourth (11:23.14).
The fantastic 5000m win completed the hat-trick for de Rozario after her win in the T53 800m (1:49.76) on the first day of the meet along with the 1500m world record.
The results are still sinking in for the popular champion.
“It’s been so surreal. There was a lot of focus going in to the Commonwealth Games and that definitely took up all of my thoughts for the first part of the year,” she said.
“Then to refocus on the London Marathon – that itself was a massive surprise and I’ve definitely hit a good patch of form. I’m really hoping we can stretch it out a bit longer.”
Sauvage was very pleased with the results and the focus of all six Australian racers.
“We saw really good results from this small group. All athletes set PBs and of course we had the amazing world record performances from Rheed and Madison,” Sauvage said.
“I have been really impressed with the attitude of the athletes and how they all got themselves ready to race.”
Other outstanding Australian performances at the GP in Nottwil included: Eliza Ault-Connell (nee Stankovic) setting a T54 Australian 800m (1:46.67) record in her first international competition outside of Australia since 2006; Sam Carter with an Australian record in the T54 200m (25.06), and equal PB in the 400m (48.37); Robyn Lambird claiming T34 100m bronze in a PB (19.82); and Luke Bailey on his debut in Switzerland set a T54 200m PB (27.19).
All Australians will compete at the Daniela Jutzeler Memorial one-day meet on Thursday. McCracken then heads back to Australia and the remaining five athletes compete in the Swiss Nationals at the Nottwil track on the weekend.
For full results from the World Para Athletics GP, click here.
By Athletics Australia