Paralympic silver medallist Ernst's race to New York | SASCOC - SASCOC

Paralympic silver medallist Ernst’s race to New York

By Mark Etheridge

Our London Paralympics silver medallist Ernst van Dyk is in a race against time to get to New York, be fully over any jet lag and ready to race Sunday’s New York Marathon.

This after the giant US city struggles to come to terms with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy that swept ashore on Monday evening.

Van Dyk, a nine-time Boston Marathon wheelchair winner and a winner of the New York Marathon back in 2005, finally left South Africa for the United States late on Thursday evening.

At the London Paralympics earlier this year he ended second in the H4 hand-cycle road race, been narrowly beaten to gold by Italian ace Alex Zenardi, a former Formula One racer.

“I wasn’t allowed to board a flight on Wednesday night,” said Van Dyk on Thursday morning. “When I arrived at the airport I was informed that British Airways was not letting on passengers with onward flights from London to NY board as hotels in London were ‘full’ and the airport situation was not clear. Looking at the news reports this morning it seems that normal flights have resumed to and from NY besides La Guardia.”

But Van Dyk’s luck changed later in the day. “By hook or by crook I got on a flight last night. Hope to make the connection later for NY,” Van Dyk told Road to Rio 2016 from London on Friday morning.

Thankfully the marathon route doesn’t pass through Lower Manhattan during its race through five boroughs. Major flooding, storm damage and power outages, coupled with transport problems mean that probably nowhere near the expected 47,000 field of runners will actually line up on Sunday.

But at this stage, just as it has every year since 1970, it still seems all systems go for Sunday’s race. Van Dyk has only missed three of them since 2001, once when South African Airways lost his chair.

Is it all systems go for Van Dyk on this occasion though? “I’m feeling OK for Top 10 this time round. I’ve not really been in a racing chair since April because I focused on handcycling for Paras. But for the last four weeks, training in the chair picked up and I think I’ll be OK.”

And Van Dyk said that Sunday’s race would be a means to an end and part of the bigger picture. “Over the last 18 months I developed my cardio system to support my arms for over three hours at high intensity. It’s now just a matter of getting my speed and climbing technique in the race chair dialed in again. Been working on that so we will see.

“This is all part of the build-up towards attempting to win Boston for the 10th time next year. After NY I’ll go to Florida to get a new chair built for my Boston attempt next year. All the top performers from London 2012 will be in NY except David Weir so the field is loaded. Will be good fun.”