Geert Schipper and Eden Rainbow-Cooper overcame strong fields and difficult conditions to win the second edition of the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon’s wheelchair race. Sunday, 15 October’s, blustery winds did not derail the racers from Netherlands or Great Britain; though they were made to work hard for their victories. South African wheelchair racing legend and two-time Paralympic Gold Medallist, Ernst Van Dyk raced to sixth in what is likely to be his last elite outing on home soil.

The 42.2 kilometre marathon course may have started in Greenpoint, out of the wind and on silky smooth roads, but that was not the norm for the course. “Beware of the roads in Woodstock,” Van Dyk had warned his rivals on the start line. Though the heavy roads were less concerning than the wind.

Except that is for Schipper. “I like the heavy roads,” the triathlete and paracyclist smiled. “I think the tougher conditions and slower roads suited me.”

“I’m not used to being at this level, this is only my second marathon,” he confessed. “I was nervous this morning and I didn’t sleep much last night. I had a discussion yesterday, with Sean [Frame], about what to do in the race. But then after 3km I was just there with Michael [McCabe], then 5km later I was on my own.”

Ernst van Dyk

Ernst van Dyk (leading) competed as an elite wheelchair athlete for the final time, on home soil, at the 2023 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. Photo by Caleb Bjergfelt.

Once out on his own Schipper raced to a commanding victory in a time of 1 hour, 32 minutes and 9 seconds. Sean Frame had spent much of the race in second, but was caught by Michael McCabe in the second half of the course. This set the pair up for a sprint finish, which McCabe won.

“It was neck and neck,” McCabe laughed. “It’s been neck and neck a few times with me and Sean [Frame]. I love racing him and it was really exciting.”

In the women’s wheelchair race Rainbow-Cooper came close to matching Schipper’s dominance. She clocked a time of 1 hour, 52 minutes and 58 seconds. “I’m over the moon with my performance. I was struggling by the end, so I know I left it all out there,” an elated Rainbow-Cooper said from the finish line.

Christie Dawes

Christie Dawes (front) and Vanessa Cristina De Souza race, wheel-to-wheel, through the streets of Cape Town. Photo by Caleb Bjergfelt.

Christie Dawes and Vanessa Cristina De Souza had been locked in a tussle for second for much of the race, before the Australian edged away to secure the silver medal by just 34 seconds. “It was bloody windy. Blowing a dog off a chain, as we’d say in Australia,” Dawes joked. “The course is hilly, but I love the elevation. I loved the hills. It’s the New York on the 5th of November and it’s a hillier course too. So, racing here on a hilly course has made me more optimistic for New York because I was quite concerned before the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon.”

Van Dyk, who at 50 will be making his final wheelchair racing elite appearance at the New York Marathon, soaked up his final racing appearance in South Africa. As one of the country’s most recognisable Paralympians he has been an advocate for the race becoming an Abbott’s World Marathon Major. Most importantly though, for the wheelchair athletes, the race and Cape Town embraced them fully.

“Big thing about racing here at the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon was the atmosphere,” Rainbow-Cooper praised. “There were so many fans shouting your name. People seemed genuinely excited for us, wheelchair athletes, and treated us as true elites.”

Cape Town Marathon

2023 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon Elite Men’s Wheelchair Podium (from left to right): Sean Frame (third), Geert Schipper (first) and Michael Mccabe (second). Photo by Lisa Carter.

2023 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon

Men’s Elite Wheelchair Results

  1. Geert Schipper (1:32:09)
  2. Michael McCabe (1:43:01 | +10:52)
  3. Sean Frame (1:43:02 | +10:54)
Cape Town Marathon

2023 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon Elite Women’s Wheelchair Podium (from left to right): Vanessa Cristina De Souza (third), Eden Rainbow-Cooper (first) and Christie Dawes (second). Photo by Lisa Carter.

Women’s Elite Wheelchair Results

  1. Eden Rainbow-Cooper (1:52:58)
  2. Christie Dawes (1:58:03 | +5:06)
  3. Vanessa Cristina De Souza (1:58:37 | +5:40)

For the full results from the 2023 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon please click here.