Australian athletics stars Kurt Fearnley and Christie Dawes produced sensational wins in the wheelchair marathon races at this morning’s Gold Coast Airport Marathon, and in doing do, fine-tuned their Rio 2016 Paralympic Games preparations.

Fearnley (NSW) broke the long-standing race record from 2000 with his commanding victory in his maiden 42.195km Gold Coast Airport Marathon.

His stunning 12 minute victory over fellow Rio-bound racer Banora Point’s Bill Chaffey (1:42.37) sent a powerful message across the seas that he’ll be a force to be reckoned with at his farewell Paralympics. It also bettered the previous race record held by John McLean of 1:33:21.

Fearnley said he enjoyed his Gold Coast debut.

“There were plenty of people out there running.

“A few of my cousins were on the course; it’s nice to be at a marathon where people know your name,” the relaxed Fearnley said.

“This is the last start for me before the Rio Games.

“It’s a pretty handy time, but unfortunately a hard week of training starts on Tuesday.”

Fearnley said he raced within himself.

“I was [racing] without red lining.

“It’s a hard week of training coming up so I wanted to conserve, but when I got up to the 21 kilometre mark I knew that it could be one of those courses that you could go really quick on.

“Running back into a full field of marathoners and through thousands of people just screaming along the course for us, I really got to enjoy the last half,” he said.

Fearnley managed to start the race on time despite having to attend to a last minute and very messy family matter.

“It was weird; everyone else was lining up on the start line and I had to take my young fella to change his nappy.

He said it made for a memorable family day out.

“Even to do that was a bit of fun. He actually pushed to the start line with me and when my wife finished [her run in] the half marathon, she grabbed hold of him.

“It’s just a fun day out believe it or not,” he laughed.

Women’s winner Dawes obliterated Louise Sauvage’s 1:51:13 race record (1998) and laid claims for her selection in her sixth Australian Paralympic Team.

Today Dawes clocked her first Paralympic ‘A’ qualifying time under 1:46:00 with a stunning 1:43:45.

She said she enjoyed the beginning and end of her race today.

“I like the first five kilometres and last two kilometres because you know you’re nearly there,” she laughed.

“I knew that I wanted to average 24 [kilometres an hour] and I was averaging just over 25 at the 10km mark and I knew the trickiest part of the course was coming up with a lot of the speed humps and a couple of turnarounds.

“But I knew that as long as I kept my pace, I had a lot of lee-way there to get that average up,” she said.

On her Rio expectations, the Paralympic veteran said she was looking forward to whatever awaits.

“I’m very excited about racing and a little bit apprehensive about the Zika virus and the crime rate and things like that, but taking the right precautions. I think we’ll be okay.

“I’m so incredibly excited,” she said.

The ACTs Jono Tang (1:00:13) and Gold Coaster Kelly Darragh (1:12.29) took the men’s and women’s 15km wheelchair races.

Tang said a recent overseas outing and his win today have boosted his confidence ahead of an assault on the Oita International Wheelchair Marathon later this year.

“I just came back from a big meet overseas, so today my focus was on pushing a solid race and to not drop too much time,” Tang said.

“I’m currently at the end of the short season and leading into the long season, so today was good preparation for that,” he said.

Like Fearnley, he said he was lifted by the crowd support.

“Everyone was so wonderful. The organisation was amazing and there were so many people out on the course cheering and yelling out my name,” he said.

Darragh, who is hinting at retirement, found the going tough.

“I had a few panic attacks during the race, but I managed to focus on my breathing and the finish line and push through it,” Darragh said.

“I didn’t have a plan. My main focus was to finish. I raced here two years ago and this was my personal best time over the 15km distance,” she said.

Darragh also lapped up the atmosphere.

“The crowd support was amazing,” she said.

“We had our names on our helmets and everyone was yelling out ‘Go Kelly’ all the way to the finish line.

“I loved the support,” she said.


Wheelchair Marathon

Men: Kurt Fearnley (NSW) 1:30:18 1, Bill Chaffey (NSW) 1:42:37 2, Richard Nicholson (ACT) 1:43:49 3, Jason McGregor (QLD) 2:19:18 4, Nige Young (WA) 2:23:06 5.

Women: Christie Dawes (NSW) 1:43:45 1, Emily Tapp (ACT) 2:04:06 2, Sara Tait (QLD) 2:20:15 3.

Wheelchair 15km

Men: Jono Tang (ACT) 1:00:13 1.

Women: Kelly Darragh (QLD) 1:12:29 1.