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Diamond League Events- Crystal Palace, Welteklasse

Posted on January 11th, by Josh Cassidy in wheelchair racing. No Comments

Video link to 1500m race at Crystal Palace… works only for viewers in the UK:

An awesome experience for my first time being invited to the Diamond League events (formerly known as Golden League)  in London and Zurich.


London Marathon Winner Josh Cassidy had to settle for third place in the men’s 1500m wheelchair event at the prestigious Samsung Diamond League Final in Zurich, Switzerland on Thursday 19th August. Marcel Hug of Switzerland, attempting to break his own world record, slip-streamed his way to a comfortable win behind a sacrificial pacemaker leaving the real battle in his wake between Cassidy and Frenchman Julien Casoli.

A prestigious gauntlet had been thrown down by race organizers – set a new world record and win 1kg of gold!   A tempting but tough task indeed, on the soft ‘roll resistant’ Letzigrund Stadium track.  However, Hug was still keen on attacking his existing WR time of 2:54.51 and Cassidy, the Canadian record holder with a PB of 2:55.73 was also up for it.

But on the night a couple a things went against Cassidy.

Firstly, a late change; the German, Marc Schuh, fastest man over  400m, was in the startup line.  Two months previously, Schuh had paced Hug to the 800m WR in Switzerland.  Schuh and Hug were in lanes one and two respectively – arguably the best start lanes for a 1500m and some might say an extraordinary bit of good luck for Hug to achieving the task in hand.  Secondly, Cassidy drew the not so lucky outside lane 7.

At the gun, Schuh set off at a blistering pace.  Cassidy came out strongly and powered across into fourth position.   But already Schuh was pulling Hug away from the pack (in wheelchair racing, ‘drafting’ is an important element, tucking in behind another competitor decreases wind resistance and the athlete’s resultant physical output) and after one lap it was clear the real battle would be for second place.

“My fellow competitors clearly gave up on chasing Marcel after 600m.  I really wanted to try and catch Marcel, but I didn’t want to pull the chase myself” said Cassidy. “The pack must work together to chase down a gap like that so I had to change my game plan to race a bit more tactically for second.”

Cassidy led the pursuing pack for most of the race making a few surges on his two tails, but they stuck in his draft, unwilling to take the front forcing a sprint for the line.  It was a close between Casoli and Cassidy, with Cassidy missing out second place by 0.03 seconds in 3:11:89.

Schuh, who dropped off the pace after 450m and did not finish was still on the track during the sprint for second place.  ”Marc was sitting in lane three or four, he didn’t physically impede me, but it did throw me off a bit mentally.  That could have been the 0.03 second difference.  But Julien Casoli finished strong.”

When questioned if he felt the race was geared towards Marcel, Cassidy said, “Though I anticipated a close finish between Marcel and I, the race just played out differently.  I am still happy with a podium finish, and I am pleased with how well I performed. I hit the highest speeds I’ve ever hit on such a slow surface.”

In the end, Hug missed out on the real gold with a time of 3:01:07;  still fast for the track surface.

Last Friday, Cassidy competed in the Diamond League and UKA Disability Challenge events at Crystal Palace, London.  In the Diamond League 1500m event, despite making a glove change at 200m he came back from second last place to finish fourth.

In the UKA Disability Challenge, he came second in both the 800m and 1500m.  Cassidy narrowly missed beating the GB Paralympic Gold Medalist, David Weir, by 0.03 seconds.  “I am very happy with how I performed here, it just goes to show me where I should have been on Friday, had I not had glove problems. I needed a strong finish like that to keep my confidence up.”

Josh Cassidy continues to demonstrate he is one of the top wheelchair athletes in the world as London 2012 looms on the horizon.

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