Dubai (UAE): After back-to-back victories in 2018 and 2019, Switzerland’s renowned “Silver Bullet’ Marcel Hug and the formidable Sandra Graf will be gunning for unique hat-tricks when they line up at the start of the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon next Friday (January 24).

Undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest athletes, Hug – who turns 34 this week – is undefeated in his two appearances on the flat and fast course of the Middle East’s premier marathon. On his Dubai debut in 2018, Hug covered the 42.195km distance in 1h:25m:14s to strike gold, while 12 months ago he again stormed to victory in a new course record time of 1h:24:09.

On both occasions he was chased home by Japanese rival Hiroyuki Yamamoto who has also confirmed his appearance in the 21st edition of the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.

But while Hug is a double Paralympic gold medalist, a nine-time world champion and a two-time winner in Dubai, he knows he will need to be at his supreme best if he is to make it a Dubai hat-trick. Also set to face off again with the Swiss legend is veteran Japanese athlete Masazumi Soejima, who beat Hug by more than two minutes when taking silver at last year’s Boston Marathon.

Now 49 years old, Soejima also serves as the wheelchair race director at the Tokyo Marathon but will be out to show he has lost none of the competitive edge that took him to victory in both the 2011 Boston and New York Marathons.

Soejima will join Hug, Yamamoto, fellow countryman Hiroki Nishida, South Africa’s ten-time Boston Marathon winner and Paralympic gold medalist Ernst Van Dyk, American Patrick Monahan – runner-up in Dubai in 2017 - and Spain’s Jorge Jimenez in a powerful field of elite wheelchair athletes.

In the women’s category, Hug’s Swiss compatriot Sandra Graf will also be looking to make it a hat-trick of wins when she returns for another tilt at the wheelchair title.

In 2008, 50-year-old Graf won the London Marathon at her first attempt, setting a course record of 1:48:04, and has competed in five consecutive Summer Paralympics from 2000 to 2016 winning bronze medals in the marathon in 2008 and 2012. In London, she also struck Paralympic gold in the road time trial H3 cycling event.

On the flat streets of Dubai, Graf tasted victory in both 2018 (1h:45m:13s) and 2019 (1h:41:03) and this year the course record holder will be looking to see off the challenges of rivals Vanessa De Souza and Margriet Van Den Broek.

"Marcel and Sandra have almost made the race their own over the past two years so we are delighted to welcome them back again in 2020,” said Event Director Peter Connerton. "The elites know our course is fast and flat offering the possibility of incredibly quick times and we are excited at what this elite field can achieve.”

The wheelchair category will start at 5.55am in an event held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and staged under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council. They will be followed by the Marathon, the 10km Road Race and 4km Fun Run.

As well as the Marathon, runners looking to take part in the 10km or the 4km can register online at www.dubaimarathon.org. UAE Nationals in particular are being encouraged to take part in the event thanks to the ‘#My City_My Race’ campaign, an initiative launched by Dubai Holding.

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