Marcel Hug has been at the top of wheelchair marathon racing for over a decade. MAJORS takes a look at his astonishing record
WORDS: DANNY COYLE
If winning is a habit, then Marcel Hug has found it hard to shake off. The Swiss 37-year-old has swept the last two Abbott World Marathon Majors series titles in dominant style, taking his tally to four in total, continuing a glittering career that has spanned 19 years and counting at the pinnacle of marathon racing.
In his first Paralympic Games, an 18-year-old Hug takes home two bronze medals from Athens for the 800 and 1500m T54 events.
Hug takes world championship gold in the 10,000m in Assen, Netherlands. He earns silvers in the 5,000 and 800m.
Hug cannot get on the podium at the Beijing Paralympics with fourth place in the 5,000m his best finish.
On his home track in Nottwil, Switzerland, he smashes four world records in one summer meeting.
After another 10,000m world gold in Christchurch, Hug wins his first Major in Berlin, beating his mentor Heinz Frei by just a second.
The London Paralympics bring 800m silver and the same medal in the marathon, where he finishes just one second behind David Weir. Hug wins Berlin again.
At the Lyon World Championships, Hug hits the jackpot, winning five gold medals from the 400m all the way up to the Marathon, with his only silver coming in the 800m. He also gets his hands on his first New York City title.
Just one week after winning the Paris Marathon, Hug beats Weir in London for the first time after three second place finishes behind the Briton.
Boston is the next Major to fall to the Swiss, as he defeats 10-time winner Ernst van Dyk by more than six minutes.
Hug goes back-to-back in Boston and London in the space of six says. His next objective is the Rio Paralympics, where he wins two silvers in the 1500 and 5000m and claims his first Games golds in the 800m and the marathon. He takes his form into the autumn Majors season, beating Kurt Fearnley in two photo finishes to win Chicago and New York City.
Hug wins Boston, Berlin, Chicago and New York, with a second place in London. In the first season of the Abbott World Marathon Majors wheelchair series, he is crowned Series X champion. The World Para Athletics Championships are held in London that summer, and Hug wins 800m, 1,500m and 5,000m gold.
Series XI also falls to Hug after he wins Boston in terrible conditions and comes second in London less than a week later. In the autumn races where Series XII begins, he can only manage third place in Berlin while in Chicago and New York he is beaten by the American sensation Daniel Romanchuk.
Hug starts his Majors season with a win in Tokyo but is then defeated in Boston and London by Romanchuk, which means he loses his series crown. As the new series begins in the autumn, he wins in Berlin but cannot get the better of Romanchuk, who is victorious in Chicago and New York again.
With all Majors barring Tokyo delayed until the autumn due to the pandemic, the Paralympics takes center stage this summer. Hug, armed with a new hi-tech chair and uninterrupted preparations, wins a career-defining four golds, including his second marathon title at the Games. Not long after that he takes on all five Majors in a truncated season and wins Berlin, London, Boston and New York City, only losing Chicago narrowly to Romanchuk, but doing enough to take back the series title.
Hug opens his Majors campaign with a crushing win in Tokyo but falls ill before Boston and cannot compete. His powers of recovery get him to the start line a week later in London and he emerges from a titanic struggle with Romanchuk to sprint for the win. The autumn brings three straight triumphs, with his seventh Berlin win plus course record victories in Chicago and New York City. Of the five wheelchair series’ that have taken place in the Majors, Hug has now won four of them.