WHEELCHAIRS GO ASTRAY IN MIX-UP.
Forget about such technical details as road work, carbo-loading and proper hydration. What the men's wheelchair division of the Los Angeles Marathon came down to was knowing when to turn left instead of right.
A major portion of the field went the wrong way for over a mile Sunday before backtracking.
Unlike the women's marathon, no one was disqualified because these racers returned to the course where they left it. But it took away any potential for a close race.
Saul Mendoza of Mexico City did not get lost because he had a lead vehicle to follow. He won easily in 1 hour, 32 minutes, 29 seconds, a staggering 7:03 faster than runner-up Ben Lucas of New Zealand.
Australia's Louise Sauvage won a sprint at the end to win the women's division in 1:49:24, one second ahead of American Jean Driscoll.
The reason for the disparity in the men's race was that an estimated 30 of the 64 participants entered went the wrong way at the intersection of Vermont and Exposition boulevards, which is around the 6-mile mark.
``It's a `T' intersection and apparently when they got there the barricades preventing them from turning right weren't up,'' said Nick Curl, the marathon's director of operations.
Curl huddled with officials from the Department of Transportation, Los Angeles Police Department and the marathon to determine what went wrong, but he had no answers Sunday.
The barricades were in place when the wrong-way racers returned and by the time the women reached the intersection.
Mustapha Badid of Stephenville, Texas, said this is his 51st marathon and the first major one he's ever gotten lost in.
``I had 20 miles to think about it, I'm not mad anymore,'' Badid said. ``I don't know what happened; there's no way we can lose ourselves. They always have a fence, but they didn't have a fence. A guy there had a map (of the course) and he showed me the way to go.''
The wrong-way turn didn't affect who won. Mendoza and race favorite Heinz Frei of Switzerland surged to an early lead, causing the rest of the field to lose contact.
Shortly after the turn, Frei's rear right tire popped, leaving Mendoza alone for the final 20 miles.
Photo: Mexico City's Saul Mendoza crosses the finish line first in the wheelchair division.
Gus Ruelas / Daily News
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Mar 3, 1997|
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