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Nietlispach clocks the opposition again

By Bob Monahan, Globe Staff, 04/20/99

he man from Switzerland, who may be tuned even better than the watches his country produces, did it again with clocklike precision yesterday.

Franz Nietlispach, 42 of Zeiningen, Switzerland, captured his third straight Boston Marathon men's wheelchair title - his fourth overall - as he registered a neat 1:21:36 on a sun-drenched course to beat his closest competitor, Saul Mendoza of Mexico (1:25:18), by a healthy margin. Scot Hollonbeck of Atlanta was third in 1:27:58.

Nietlispach was a well-oiled machine, defying anyone to catch him. He finished only 13 seconds off the course record set by Heinz Frei of Switzerland in 1994.

''I wish we had a 14-second tailwind,'' Nietlispach joked.

He took an early lead after about 2 miles - just as he did a year ago - and let his opponents see only the back of his head, almost toying with the rest of the men's field of 57. He seemed to allow Mendoza, a strong young man who recorded a personal-best time, to take the lead for the first 2 miles. Then Nietlispach took command after 3 miles, for which he was timed in 9:20.

''I felt good,'' said Nietlispach. ''I had planned to get an early lead but Mendoza did surprise me. I had a hard time catching up to him, but I did after about 3 miles. I caught him on a downhill.

''I am weak going up the hills. That's why I have to go out and take an early lead. If I don't do that, I don't win.

''Everything was pretty good except for a time when a motorcycle got too close to me and blocked my vision and I couldn't see some holes here and there. There was a television camera on the motorcycle filming me. That was nice, but I needed my vision. Overall the course was good.''

Mendoza said, ''Franz is a great competitor. I did feel good taking that early lead, but it didn't last long. He's too good. But I am happy. I got a personal best and a silver medal. I feel good.''

Hollonbeck said, ''I was lucky to finish third. I was bumped once and took a tumble.''

This story ran on page F05 of the Boston Globe on 04/20/99.
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.

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