Kurt Fearnley heads into retirement having won gold at the Commonwealth Games. (AAP: Dean Lewins)
Kurt Fearnley has ended his career representing Australia on a high note with an emphatic victory in the men’s T54 marathon at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Fearnley never looked like finishing the race with anything but the gold medal, having dominated from the start with a commanding solo performance to win in a time of one hour, 30 minutes and 25 seconds.
After narrowly missing the gold on the track in the 1500m on Tuesday night, Fearnley promised he would give the marathon “everything I’ve got”, admitting he had dreamt of winning the race since it was first confirmed on the Games schedule.
He held clear leads over the field through all the major checkpoints amid sunny but mild conditions, including a buffer of one minute and 10 seconds halfway through the 42.195km course.
Despite fatigue setting in, Fearnley’s lead extended to 1:41 at the 35km mark as he edged closer to the finish, with the chase group only making slight progress in cutting back the Australian’s advantage in the final kilometres.
England’s John Smith and Simon Lawson finished 1:18 adrift of Fearnley to fill the minor placings, while Australia’s Jake Lappin (1:37:34) was sixth.
There was more cause for celebration for Australia, with Madison de Rozario winning the women’s T54 marathon for her second gold of the Games in 1:44:00, 13 seconds ahead of countrywoman Eliza Ault-Connell.
Madison de Rozario won the women’s T54 marathon to make it a double for Australia. (AAP: Dean Lewins)
Fearnley fought back tears when he described just how much winning the gold medal meant to him and his family.
“It’s bloody awesome,” Fearnley said.
“You see the emotion on the faces of your family and just sharing that with people, it’s just full-on. The thought you can be a part of people feeling so much joy, it’s just overwhelming.”
Fearnley said he felt he owed the people who had supported him throughout his career a performance they would remember.
“All I could think of is I’ve received so much from so many people and all I can do is go out there and hurt,” he said.
“Go out and fight for that hour-and-a-half — and that’s exactly what happened.”
The 37-year-old Fearnley is not retiring, as he will continue his career at events such as the upcoming London Marathon, but this was his swansong in Australian colours.
The win on the Gold Coast is the latest chapter of his decorated career, which is highlighted by three Paralympic gold medals, including two in the marathon at the Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008) Games.
The Athens win is particularly memorable, as Fearnley was forced to contend with a flat tyre late in the race.
He also claimed silver medals in the marathon at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics and won gold in the event twice at the IPC World Championships (2006 and 2011).
Fearnley’s list of victories at the major marathons is also extensive.
He has won the prestigious New York and Chicago Marathons each on five occasions, while he has twice triumphed at the London Marathon.
Fearnley, who was raised in Carcoar in New South Wales’ central west, now has two Commonwealth Games gold and four medals in total in his keeping.