By Mike Rowbottom

Kurt Fearnley_leads_Chicago_Marathon_October_9_2011October 9  - Kurt Fearnley confirmed once again his status as the world's greatest wheelchair marathoner as he won his fourth Chicago title, finishing four seconds ahead of Heinz Frei of Switzerland.

For the 30-year-old Australian double Paralympic champion, this was win number 32 in 44 marathons, although the 53-year-old Swiss veteran – who still holds the course record of 1 hour 26min 56sec from his 2010 victory – pushed Fearnley all the way to the line.

"Heinz was racing the year I was born," Fearnley said.

"If I'm still racing in 23 years, I'm pretty sure my wife will shoot me."

Fearnley missed last year's race in order to compete at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, where he won the 1500 metres wheelchair gold.

The women's wheelchair title went for the second time to American Tatyana McFadden.

The 22-year-old from the University of Illinois, who won her first Chicago Marathon in 2009, also earned one of the two places on offer for the United States team for the 2012 Paralympics

McFadden, the 2009 champion, also secured one of the two automatic US qualifying places on offer for the 2012 Paralympics, with the other going to fourth-placed Shirley Reilly, of Tucson, Arizona.

McFadden, who has spina bifida, was adopted from a St. Petersburg, Russia, orphanage by a Maryland family at age six.

London 2012 will be her third Paralympics but it will be her first time in the marathon. In the previous two Paralympics she has won four silvers at distances from 100 to 800 metres.

"I was known to be a sprinter," McFadden said.

"No one thought I would do this well in the marathon. I want to be the best at everything I do."

McFadden's winning time of 1:45:03 was the second fastest ever in Chicago, just 34 seconds from Ann Walters' 19-year-old record.

For McFadden's Illinois colleague Amanda McGrory, however, it was a bad day.

Mechanical problems prevented the aspiring Paralympian, who was defending the title having won it for a third time in 2010, from finishing.

On the men's side, Joshua George from Champaign took third place overall, but was the first American male to finish in 1:29:23 to earn a place at London 2012.

University of Illinois wheelchair racing head coach Adam Bleakney, also from Champaign, finished in the fifth overall position in 1:29:57, enough to book his place in the Paralympics.

"I could not be happier with the efforts of our athletes and the Chicago Marathon," said head coach and director of Paralympic Track & Field High Performance Cathy Sellers.

"Our athletes put on a great show.

"This is a very solid team of marathoners, and I know they will all be very competitive in London."

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