Rome's runners and sports lovers made Richard Whitehead's acquaintance at the Rome Marathon 2008, when Nottingham's athlete inspired the field as he won the marathon in his category. He doubled the following year, setting a new world record for the 26.2 miles distance.
Last Friday, Whitehead won the 200m race at the Paralympics (cat. T42), smashing the former world record in front of 80,000 ecstatic spectators.
Whitehead, who was born with both legs missing from above the knee, is still world record holder for the marathon, but he was denied entry to his best event by Paralympics rules — and so switched to sprint distances instead.
This week, another Rome Marathon celeb will start his quest for a gold medal. Alex Zanardi is one of the front athletes in the cycling road race cat. H4.