And we have a winner! The first place trophies for the men's and women's wheelchair division of the Boston Marathon have been handed out to Masazumi Soejima for the men's race, and Wakako Tsuchida for the women's.
The men's race was a photo finish -- Soejima just beat out his competitors in a crazy sprint for the tape. He won by one second with a time of 1:18:50. It's the second time Masazumi Soejima has won the Boston Marathon, the first time was in 2007. The woman's victor, Wakako Tsuchida, crossed the finish line at 1:34:06 for her fifth straight Boston Marathon title. Tsuchida also beat the world record, set by Jean Driscoll in 1994, by a long 16 seconds.
Wakako Tsuchida and Masazumi Soejima are both champions today, but they share a bond in another category, as well -- they're both Japanese.
Any victory for Japan right now is a win for the world. A boost for the nation ravaged by an earthquake and tsunami has got to be a good thing, and two first place prizes can only give Japan a reason to cheer.
Masazumi Soejima, the men's winner, persevered over unlikely odds to beat the sport's stronghold, Ernst Van Dyk from South Africa. Van Dyk won each Boston Marathon from 2001-2006, took a year off in 2007, then continued his winning streak again from 2008 to 2010. Soejima won the race in 2007, when Van Dyk wasn't there, so for him to push through today and get the W against his fiercest competition is just awesome. Go Masazumi!
The women's winner, Wakako Tsuchida, also pulled off an astounding victory and set a new world record. Tsuchida has paraplegia and won the Boston Marathon wheelchair division in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and now 2011. She's the woman to beat in any wheelchair, or ice sledge racing, competition.
Cheers to both Soejima and Tsuchida for their great wins today!
Photo via Lizard10979/Flickr