LONDON — Canada's Brent Lakatos has dominated wheelchair racing's sprint distances for the better part of a decade.
On Sunday, the 40-year-old from Dorval, Que., pulled away from the field in a sprint finish down The Mall at St. James Park to win the London Marathon.
Lakatos, drenched from racing in drizzling rain, finished in one hour 46 minutes and four seconds.
"Thank you to everyone for the amazing support," Lakatos posted on Twitter after the race. "Huge thanks for @LondonMarathon for all their work putting on a safe race in these crazy times. I won!!!!"
Fellow Canadian Tristan Woodfine dipped under the Olympic qualifying standard in the men's event.
Lakatos has seven Paralympic medals, and 11 world track titles in every distance between the 100 and 800 metres to his name. He also won the 2018 Berlin Marathon.
Lakatos, who lives and trains in Loughborough, England, with his wife and Paralympian Stephanie Reid, is an engineering grad from the University of Texas, and competed Sunday in an aerodynamically-improved racing chair he'd made with the help of a 3D designer.
The Canadian denied Great Britain's David Weir a ninth London Marathon win. Weir finished two seconds behind Lakatos.
Woodfine, from Cobden, Ont., needed to run 2:11.30 for the Olympic qualifying standard, and crossed in 2:10.51 to finish 14th in the men's race held in front of no fans in central London.
In a season that saw almost the entire marathon scheduled wiped out by COVID 19, Woodfine said achieving the Tokyo standard was "a big weight off the shoulders."
"It's definitely a weird year, and there were no guarantees of even getting a chance to race," he said. "So, having the opportunity was awesome. And then being able to capitalize on that opportunity just feels great.
"Right now, there's really no guarantee that there would be another opportunity, so it feels good to come here and deliver even when the conditions weren't optimal."
The 31-year-old, whose previous best had been 2:13:16 from the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon a year earlier, said there was a giant screen on the course with projected finish times that he checked with every 2.15-kilometre lap around the park.
"The last couple of laps, the wheels started falling off, and it was definitely a bit of a struggle," he said. "But I just tried to hang tough, and then coming around that final bend and seeing (his projected time), knowing I was going to get it was definitely a good moment."
Canadian record-holder Cam Levins didn't finish, dropping well off the pace over the final five kilometres. He was spotted walking before pulling off the course.
"Sorry everyone I ended up frozen out there today," Levins posted on Twitter. "Won't let this fitness go to waste though and I'll be back out there soon! Congrats to Tristan Woodfine. You the man!"
Temperatures weren't ideal for fast marathon times, hovering around 11 C, with overcast skies and periodic drizzling rain.
Shura Kitata of Ethopia won in 2:05.41 in a sprint to the finish. Kenya's Vincent Kipchumba was second in 2:05.42.
World record-holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya won the women's race.
Canada had no entries in the women's event.
Levins, who ran 2:09.25 to shatter the 43-year-old Canadian record two years ago, had been almost three minutes under national-record pace halfway through Sunday's race. But by the 35-kilometre mark, Levins the 31-year-old from Black Creek, B.C., had fallen well back of the leaders.
With COVID-19 cancelling almost all the major marathons, it's been difficult for runners to achieve the Olympic standard. Levins, who still hasn't qualified, had been expecting a fast race Sunday after running a personal best last month in the half-marathon in a training run near his Portland, Ore., home.
Kenya's world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge had a similarly disappointing day. Kipchoge, who'd never finished lower than second in a marathon, led through 37 kilometres before falling off the pace. He finished eighth in 2:06.49.
The runners were housed in a secret location outside downtown London, and tested three times for COVID-19. They wore Bump technology that alerted them of things like proximity to others.
"They've obviously put a ton of work in to make it safe for all the athletes," Woodfine said. "I imagine the logistical planning of all this would have been a nightmare, so hats off to them, they've done an amazing job."
The London event, originally scheduled for April, featured a small, elite field, under strict health protocols. The course was pared down 19.7 loops around the park, featuring Buckingham Pallace as the backdrop. Cardboard cutouts of athletes and celebrities lined the course in place of fans.
Levins had credited the some-45,000 runners who registered for the virtual London Marathon, saying the elite race wouldn't have been possible without them.
Calgary's Trevor Hofbauer and Vancouver's Dayna Pidhoresky had already booked spots in the Tokyo Olympic marathon as the top Canadians in the 2019 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. They retained their Olympic spots despite the Games postponement.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 4, 2020.
The Canadian Press