Dominika Stelmach representing Poland gets caught at the 55.25kms mark by the Wings for Life World Run Catcher Car in Melbourne, Australia last night. Image – Mark Dadswell.
Red Bull Media House
While global champions Giorgio Calcaterra of Italy and Kaori Yoshida of Japan made history at the Wings for Life World Run last night (May 8), every one of the 130,732 registered participants was part of a record-setting effort to raise funds for spinal cord research.
Giorgio Calcaterra of Italy was crowned men’s Global Champion of the third annual Wings for Life World Run, outstripping the event’s moving Catcher Car finish line to a winning distance of 88.44kms that saw him become the first runner of the race to break 80km.
In earning the women’s title, Japan’s Kaori Yoshida also rewrote the record books in spectacular fashion, becoming the event’s first woman to break 60kms and setting a new benchmark of 65.71kms.
Every runner contributed to a pair of new records for the event, with an unprecedented number of registered participants – 130,732 across 34 official locations plus 20,556 Selfie Runners – as well as sponsors and other donors, raising a landmark amount for spinal cord injury research: 6.6 million euros.
Whether it was daytime (Europe) or night (Asia and Australia), sunny (United Arab Emirates) or rainy (Slovenia), spirits were high right from the start at 11am UTC as runners of all levels were on the road in the movement to find a cure for spinal cord injury.
In all, people of 203 nationalities signed up for the race where participation is what matters and everyone can set his or her own running goals, covering a combined total of 1,255,000kms worldwide.
Nearing five hours of racing, all but two runners had already been caught by celebrity Catcher Car drivers like motocross legend Ricky Johnson and Formula One’s David Coulthard and Max Verstappen.
Men’s third-place finisher Francisco Morales of Chile had ended his day with 75.47kms but the 44-year-old Calcaterra, cheered by home fans in the streets of Milan, was still locked in a showdown with Polish athlete Bartosz Olszewski, who was running in Canada.
While Calcaterra was first to reach the milestone of 80kms he couldn’t afford to celebrate as Olszewski hit the same mark soon after and kept going strong.
When Olszewski was finally passed by the Catcher Car at 82.42km, Calcaterra was officially the Global Champion, but still the Italian drove himself forward.
He was caught only after the Catcher Car accelerated to 35km/h at the 5.5-hour mark, setting his incredible new standard of 88.44kms.
In women’s action, all three of the podium finishers went longer than the 56.33kms logged by former Global Champion Yuuko Watanabe in 2015.
Yoshida achieved her courageous 65.71kms in clinching the 2016 title at home in Japan, while Karin Freitag of Austria, who ran in Germany, earned second with 59.08kms and Portugal’s Vera Nunez, who chose to run in her home country, rounded out the podium with 58.86kms.
In addition, the 20,556 Selfie Runners of both genders – joined by their buddies as they made their mark in the race that benefits spinal cord research – blazed their own trails in regions that included Hawaii, Nepal and even the Arctic.
Wings for Life CEO Anita Gerhardter said the challenges faced by those with spinal cord injury are enormous.
“It’s not just about being unable to walk, It’s also about what you don’t see, like bladder and bowel issues, breathing problems or chronic pain,” she said.
“So congratulations and thank you to everyone who took part, donated or volunteered. You’re giving hope to those living with spinal cord injury, and the funds you’ve raised will empower brilliant researchers to move forward with their work. They won’t stop until a cure is found – and I hope you won’t, either.”
Global Results MEN: 1. Giorgio Calcaterra (ITA) / run in Italy 88.44 km, 2. Bartosz Olszewski (POL) / Canada 82.42, 3. Francisco Morales (CHI) / Chile 75.47, 4. Nakajima Hiroki (JPN) / Japan 74.51, 5. Paul Martelletti (IRL) / Ireland 73.77, 6. Tomasz Walerowicz (POL) / Poland 71.12, 7. Antonio Sousa (POR) / Portugal 69.46, 8. Evgenii Glyva (UKR) / Austria 68.00, 9. Ivan Motorin (RUS) / Russia 67.37, 10. Barry Keem (AUS) / Australia 65.71
WOMEN: 1. Kaori Yoshida (JPN) / run in Japan 65.71 km, 2. Karin Freitag (AUT) / Germany 59.08, 3. Vera Nunes (POR) / Portugal 58.86, 4. Cornelia Moser (AUT) / Austria 56.88, 5. Doroteia Peixoto (POR) / Canada 55.44, 6. Elena Nurgalieva (RUS) / Russia 55.39, 7. Dominika Steimach (POL) / Australia 55.25, 8. Caitriona Jennings (IRL) / Great Britain 55.08, 9. Nathalie Vasseur (FRA) / USA Florida 54.53, 10. Onneile Dintwe (RSA) / South Africa 52.71