Wheelchair Race Prize Money Triples

Wheelchair Race Prize Money Triples: A Major Step Towards Inclusivity

AWMM Candidate   |  May. 26, 2024

In an exciting development for the 2024 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon, the event has tripled the prize money for the wheelchair race, signaling a major step towards inclusivity and recognition of wheelchair athletes. We sat down with legendary South African wheelchair racer, Ernst van Dyk, to discuss what this means for the sport of wheelchair racing, and for the marathon on its journey to becoming a Major.

A Step Towards Equality

Van Dyk, one of South Africa’s most esteemed Paralympians and long-time advocate for the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon, highlighted the significance of this prize money increase. “Internationally, prize money for wheelchair races is starting to become close to equal what runners are earning,” he noted. “This is a crucial step in acknowledging the hard work and dedication of wheelchair athletes, and brings us closer to achieving true parity in the sport.”

Recruiting a World-class Field

With the enhanced prize money, van Dyk hopes to attract a stronger elite wheelchair field to the 2024 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. “The goal is to make our marathon more appealing to top-tier athletes. By offering a drastically improved prize pool, we can recruit high-quality competitors and elevate the level of the race,” he explained. The new prize money totals are substantial: $7,000 for first place, $5,000 for second, $3,000 for third, $2,000 for fourth, and $1,000 for fifth for both male and female competitors.

The global marathon calendar is packed, with Major events in Berlin, Chicago, and New York still to come after the Paralympics taking place in late August and early September. “Athletes will need to manage their energy levels carefully,” van Dyk said. “While the prize money overseas is a strong incentive, we’re seeing last year’s champion, Geert Schipper, returning to South Africa because of the tripled prize money.”

Geert Schipper on his way to clinching the win at the 2023 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon.

Van Dyk is focused on bolstering the elite field with athletes who might not make their national Paralympic teams because nations receive limited slots regardless of how many athletes they have who have achieved qualifying standards. “Then after the Paralympics, athletes are often tired and busy with medal tours and other national responsibilities. I hope to recruit those not going to the Paralympics to elevate our field,” he said. “At the end, we want several wheelchair racers sprinting for the win. That makes the racing very tactical and entertaining for the viewers.”

The Technology Debate

While van Dyk works on the caliber of racers, the wheelchairs add an additional element of discussion to race weekend brought on by the significant advancements in technology, with F1 car designers developing the chairs. “It’s a controversial area,” van Dyk admitted. “Top athletes have access to advanced technology, which is expensive. There’s a debate about whether we should clamp down on tech to level the playing field. Whatever is used should be commercially available, and while there are rules on wheelchair dimensions, each chair is custom-made and the moulds alone can cost over $15,000.”

Course Characteristics

Commenting on the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon course, van Dyk said, “It doesn’t have enough climbing to be a climber’s course. New York is a total climber’s course, suiting lighter athletes, while Boston, with its rolling hills, suits heavier racers who can use the momentum. Some athletes excel on certain types of courses. I am intrigued to see who will master this marathon’s course profile.”

A Vision for the Future

Van Dyk’s vision for the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon becoming a Major is clear. “From a sporting event spectacle, it would be tremendous for Cape Town and South Africa to host Africa’s first and only Major. Having a wheelchair Major on African soil would create a platform to develop future wheelchair races from, which we are presently lacking. We’re missing an event where the youth can seek inspiration, and which will act as a springboard for talent development. This is what excites me the most about the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon becoming an Abbott World Marathon Majors event.”

Once the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon achieves Major status, wheelchair racers will earn points towards the Abbott World Marathon Majors Series leaderboard, which comes with substantial prize money. This will not only boost the profile of the marathon, but will also enhance the prestige and competitiveness of wheelchair racing globally.

As the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon continues to grow and evolve, the increased prize money for wheelchair athletes marks a significant milestone in the event’s journey towards equality and excellence in marathon racing.

Enter the 2024 edition of the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon here.


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