These Marathoners Are Paralympic Medalists in Other Sports
From Caroline Wozniacki to Apolo Anton Ohno, professional athletes from other sports have crossed over to the roads in New York City Marathon history on several occasions.
This year, three prolific Paralympic champions from other sports will be racing, including two in the professional wheelchair division.
Just like their able-bodied counterparts, the trio of Paralympic champions has been funneling skills from other sports into their marathon training.
Two of these athletes–Ernst van Dyk and Annika Zeyen–will be sharing their personal stories with the New York community at a RUNTalk at the NYRR RUNCENTER on Friday, November 3 at 4 p.m.
Here’s a closer look at the trio.
South Africa’s Ernst van Dyk, who won handcycling gold at the Rio 2016 Paralympics and has won the last three United Airlines NYC Half races, will go for his third New York City Marathon title in the professional wheelchair field.
Van Dyk has won the Boston Marathon a record 10 times, including six consecutive victories from 2001 to 2006 and a brilliant comeback victory last year. He won the 2005 New York City Marathon after finishing as the runner-up in 2002 and 2003. He repeated his winning feat in 2015, taking the title after two consecutive years of finishing within one second of the winner. Last year, he finished fourth in 1:40:08.
In April, Van Dyk set a new marathon personal-best time of 1:18:04, taking second at the Boston Marathon a split-second behind Marcel Hug of Switzerland. The month prior, he won his third consecutive United Airlines NYC Half, clocking in at 47:28 after taking the lead early on in Central Park.
Van Dyk has represented South Africa in every Paralympics since 1992 and won a bronze medal in the marathon at the Beijing 2008 Games. At the Rio 2016 Games, he finished sixth in the marathon, while also winning a gold medal in the 60-kilometer handcycling road race. Van Dyk also owns Enabled Sport, a para-sports equipment company.
Germany’s Annika Zeyen, who won London 2012 Paralympic gold in wheelchair basketball, will make her TCS New York City Marathon debut in the professional wheelchair division less than two months after racing her first 26.2 miles at the Berlin Marathon.
Paralyzed at age 14 after a horse riding accident, Zeyen was introduced to wheelchair basketball during her rehabilitation. She became a sharp shooter in no time, representing Germany at four Paralympics in the sport and playing on scholarship at the University of Alabama, where she maintained a 4.0 grade point average.
She now works as a graphic designer for the International Paralympic Committee while training for marathons.
“When I retired from international wheelchair basketball after the Rio 2016 Paralympics I knew that I would always do sports and that I couldn’t live without sports,” Zeyen said.
“However, I was not planning on a second career in another sport, but then I tried out wheelchair racing. I really liked it, and since I am very competitive, I wanted to improve and compete. It is great to have a new challenge and to start from zero after having played international wheelchair basketball for 15 years.”
France’s Michael Jeremiasz, a Beijing 2008 wheelchair tennis doubles gold medalist and a Paris 2024 Games Ambassador, will race the streets of New York for the first time in the general wheelchair field.
A three-time Paralympian, Jeremiasz was left paralyzed after a skiing accident in 2000. That hasn’t stopped him, though, as he has been ranked as high as No. 1 in the world in wheelchair tennis in both singles and doubles, and was France’s flagbearer at the Rio 2016 Games. He also works for France’s Ministry of Defense and runs a management company for athletes with a disability.