Swiss Legislator Wins Without Vote

ranz Nietlispach, a district congressman from Switzerland who withdrew from last year's New York City Marathon, was the first wheelchair racer across the finish line yesterday.

Nietlispach, 44, won the men's hand-cycle division in 1 hour 26 minutes 57 seconds, a record for this race. Helene A. Hines, 54, of Lido Beach, N.Y., became a three-time winner in the women's hand-cycle division, crossing the finish line in 1:59:26.

In the push-rim division, considered the harder of the two wheelchair categories, Krige Schabort, 39, of Cedartown, Ga., who did not finish last year because of a flat tire, won the men's race in 1:38:27. Cheri Blauwet, 22, of Tucson, competing in only her second push-rim marathon, took the women's push-rim title in 2:14:39.

Ernst Van Dyk, 29, of South Africa and Francesca Porcellato, 32, of Italy took the second places in the push-rim division. Carlos Moleda, 39, of Virginia and Kirsty Digger, 33, of Pennsylvania were runners-up in the hand-cycle division.

This was the third year that the wheelchairs had an official position in the New York City Marathon and the second year in which prize money was awarded to the first two male and the first two female finishers in both categories. The push-rim victors were awarded more: $2,500 for first place and $1,500 for second. The hand-cyclists received $2,000 for first and $1,000 for second.

The defending hand-cycle champion, Ziv Bar-Shira of Israel, did not race. A New York Road Runners Club official said Bar-Shira was hurt and had given his place on the Israeli team to another racer. Last year, Bar-Shira criticized the differential in prize money.

Nietlispach, who hopes to run for national office in Switzerland, suggested it was time to put the controversy to rest. A four-time Boston Marathon champion using a push-rim wheelchair, he switched this summer.

"The hand cycle is becoming more and more popular," Nietlispach said. "It's a new challenge. With the hand cycle, I am faster."

It is also easier for a beginner to learn, he said. In a hand-cycle chair, the racer uses his hands to pedal as bicyclists use their feet. Nietlispach's racer has 27 gears.

Nietlispach's winning time was nowhere close to his personal best, 1:12:04, set last April in the Rotterdam Marathon, which is raced on a flat course.

Schabort, too, has raced faster. In this year's Boston Marathon, he came in second in 1:26:04. The difference between the marathons in New York and Columbus, Ohio, where he raced two weeks ago, was the condition of the roads. "A lot less potholes" in Columbus, Schabort said.

Nietlispach was a favorite to win in New York last year. But on Sept. 27, 2001, a man with an assault rifle and a hand grenade killed 14 people and wounded several others in Nietlispach's regional legislature in Zug, Switzerland. Nietlispach said yesterday that he quit training and did not even think about sports for two months afterward.

Van Dyk, a two-time champion of the Boston Marathon, was competing here for the first time. He has collected a bushel of frequent-flier miles, competing in a marathon two weeks ago in Japan, returning to South Africa to rest a bit, then heading for New York.

"I was on the beach on Saturday enjoying the sun," he said.

Blauwet, too, is accustomed to warmer weather. She is a senior at the University of Arizona, where she is majoring in molecular biology. She said she hopes to become a doctor specializing in pediatric physiatry, so she can help children with physical disabilities.

The daughter of an Iowa farmer, Blauwet said she lost the use of her legs as a 1-year-old, when she was run over by a tractor and sustained a spinal cord injury.

She became an avid athlete who began as a wheelchair sprinter. When Blauwet began attempting longer races, she discovered she was just as efficient, finishing third in the 10,000-meter world championships. Two weeks ago, she competed in Japan, her first marathon.

Blauwet chose Arizona "because it offered a good package and I wanted to get out of the Midwest."

Porcellato, who lives in a small town an hour west of Milan, had raced in eight other marathons this year.

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