Cassidy takes the Tyne Tunnel in 12th Tunnel 2K wheelchair race

World record marathon holder Josh Cassidy stormed to victory on Friday night in Tyneside’s very own cult wheelchair race. 

The Tunnel 2K is dubbed the ‘fastest wheelchair race on the planet’, and sure enough it was all over in 4.40.2.  Cassidy hit 72kph on his dash to the belly of the Tyne, for much of the time his head tucked down hard, wheeling blind for maximum pace.  He then made the shoulder burning 1km climb out of the tunnel look like a walk in the Olympic Park, powering over the line with a convincing win to the delight of the crowd.  Second across the line was Phil Hogg in 5.37.9 and then Mickey Bushell (London 2012 T53 100m Gold Medallist) in 5.41.7.

16 year old Jade Jones from Middlesbrough won the women’s race in 6.14.9 with first timer Sammi Kinghorm taking 2nd place 8 minutes 39.

17 year old Jamie Carter also took part making a total of four London 2012 Paralympians in the field of fifteen.

 Tunnel 2K is the first major competition in the road racing Calendar after the Paralympic Marathon on 9th September.

 Race Promoter David Burdus said:  “The public and the media have really embraced the race this year.  We have been swamped with requests to come along to the event in the wake of Paralympic fever. I am confident the race profile is going from strength to strength, and we’ve been absolutely delighted with the response.”

Special guest Baroness Grey Thompson said everyone involved in the race production should feel proud.  “There really is nothing like this race in the world. Tunnel 2K is great for wheelchair racing and great for the northeast. I’ve been to every Tunnel 2K event, and I’m proud to support it.”

 Rachel Turnbull,  CEO of Tyne Tunnel operator TT2 Limited, welcomed guests to the race. She said: “The Tunnel 2k wheelchair race has become part of the character of the Tyne Tunnels. This is an event we make an exception for, because it is an exceptional event, and it brings our tunnels to life. This has been an incredible summer of sport, and we’re delighted to be part of it with our own unique and super charged race.

“For the past fortnight we have broken tradition and renamed the Tyne Tunnels after our Tunnel 2K heroes. I am proud to announce that we will rename the tunnels one last time, this weekend, after tonight’s winners.”

The Mayor of South Tyneside, Councillor Eileen Leask, started the race at the Jarrow junction of the northbound tunnel. She said: “It was a real honour to start the race in what has been a truly special year, especially when the last person to start a wheelchair race through this tunnel was Her Majesty the Queen!

“That particular event took place in July as part of the celebrations held to mark the official opening of the tunnel. It must have served as good preparation because it was won by Mickey Bushell, who of course went on to win gold at the Paralympics.

“Mickey was one of several Paralympians in tonight’s field and the greater profile that our athletes are enjoying as a result of the overwhelming success of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has generated unprecedented interest in this exhilarating event.

“Britain is still buzzing and long may it last because events like this bring international attention to the region and all it has to offer.”

The Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority has supported the wheelchair race since its inception in 1994. Paul Fenwick, Project Director of the New Tyne Crossing project, which included the major refurbishment last year of the northbound tunnel, joined the spectators at the finish line. He said: “Well done to all the racers who competed tonight. The race never fails to impress, and the athletic performances seem to get better each year.

“The Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority is proud to support, for the twelfth year, a race that attracts some of the  best athletes in the world to the region.”

Councillor Leslie Miller, North Tyneside Council Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Health and Wellbeing, attended the race to present the male athletes with their prizes. Councillor Miller said: “I am absolutely delighted to welcome a field of such world-class athletes to North Tyneside, with some arriving fresh from the Paralympic Games in London, and many going on to compete in the Great North Run on Sunday. This has been an incredible year of sport, and how wonderful it is that here on Tyneside we are able to enjoy such elite performances first hand.

“One cannot fail to be impressed and inspired by the athletic abilities of the competitors racing here at the Tyne Tunnels tonight. I feel honoured to present the awards to the winning males, and would like to congratulate all of the athletes for their performances.”

 Josh Cassidy cruises to victory at the Tunnel 2K wheelchair race through the northbound Tyne Tunnel

Jade Jones heads towards the Finish Line to win the women’s Tunnel 2K race

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