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Sauvage nips Driscoll in edge-of-the-seat duel

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

ouise Sauvage finally got out from under the shadow of seven-time women's wheelchair winner Jean Driscoll in Boston. But it wasn't easy.

Sauvage had to win the Marathon yesterday for a third consecutive time, posting a heart-thumping 1:42:23 - to Driscoll's 1:42:23. That's right, the same times - just like last year. It was a play on pavement, a Hopkinton-to-Boston drama with Oscar-winning performances.

Sauvage, the 25-year-old Australian, has basically been in a no-win situation the last two years, while winning.

Two years ago, she won her first laurel wreath after Driscoll tumbled at Cleveland Circle when her wheel caught a streetcar track. Last year, Driscoll relaxed an instant before the finish line - even as she heard, ''... and Driscoll wins her eight Marathon,'' over the PA - and that was enough for the never-say-die Sauvage to pass her, though both posted a time of 1:41:19.

Two titles. But a cloud over each.

Sauvage never really got her just reward until yesterday. Today she's the queen again, with an untarnished crown following a neat threepeat that was well-earned against Driscoll, 32, who ruled Boston from 1990-96.

''This win was more rewarding than the last two,'' said Sauvage. ''Unlike last year, I was ahead approaching the finish line. I admit I was looking for Jean to try to pass me, but I stayed ahead of her.''

Both women continue to show the world that people in wheelchairs can be great athletes.

The women's race had drama from the start. Driscoll was the early leader, for 2 miles. Sauvage was the pace-setter from Mile 3 to Mile 4. Then there was a virtual three-way tie among Sauvage, Driscoll, and Edith Hunkeler of Switzerland from Mile 5 to Mile 17.

Hunkeler dropped back, and it was Sauvage-Driscoll and then Driscoll-Sauvage. It was a chess game.

''The big difference for me was the hills,'' said Sauvage. ''The hills always were Jean's strength. I worked hard on that part of the race back home in Sydney. I spent more time on weights and actually racing up hills. I guess I improved.''

Said Driscoll, ''Louise improved on the hills and I didn't improve in the sprints, which are her strength. It was a good race.

''I am disappointed. Very disappointed. I came here to win and I thought I would. Louise was just great.''

Driscoll was just inches behind Sauvage during the last half-mile.

''Louise was just too strong in that last sprint,'' said Driscoll. ''I thought I had her set up to pass her. I couldn't. I was so close, but I couldn't pass her. She was strong and I had no room for a move. If I tried to pass left or right of her I'd lose some time. I was stuck. She made it that way.''

Louise Sauvage is queen for the third year, but in Boston's heart, both of them are queens.

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

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