2020 VISION AS WEIR EYES NINTH LONDON WIN
26 April 2019
David Weir was a 19-year-old newcomer to long distance para-athletics when he contested his first London Marathon back in 2000.
Already a seven-time winner of the Mini London Marathon, the Surrey-based teenager was pleased to finish fourth place in the senior race in 1:47:11.
Fast-forward to today and Weir is now the most successful elite athlete in the history of the event with eight men’s wheelchair titles and 17 podium appearances from 19 races. He first took the title in 2002 and this year will compete for a 20th consecutive time chasing a ninth victory against one of the strongest ever fields. “I don’t remember much about my first marathon,” Weir says, “but I do remember my first win.
“It’s got better – the organisation, the professionalism, the athletes. It’s getting tougher every year [to win]. Just being part of the Abbott World Marathon Majors Series has boosted the athletes’ appetite to do well in marathons.”
This year’s line-up features Switzerland’s two-times Abbott World Marathon Majors champion, Marcel Hug, upcoming star Daniel Romanchuk, the American who has won the Chicago, New York and Boston Marathons in the last 12 months, and South African Ernst van Dyk.
Weir passed Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson’s six-win record in 2017, beating ‘Silver Bullet’ Hug in a sprint finish, a scenario he repeated in 2018. But the London crowds are accustomed to sprint finishes in wheelchair races, and they haven’t always gone in Weir’s favour.
“Sometimes, I’ve been outsmarted,” he says. “Sometimes you think you’re invincible and then you realise that a lot of athletes were trying to knock you off your pedestal. You just have to train harder.”
The organisers have added a mid-race ‘Flying 400’ sprint competition to the race this year, with a $30,000 prize pot and Majors bonus points on offer to the fastest athletes across a 400 metre time trial section of the course starting just after the 20km point (12.5 miles) north of Tower Bridge.
“We’ve had it in the other marathons and I’ve always totally forgotten about it,” says Weir. “This time I know where it is. Sometimes I don’t remember what mile we’re at so this is good as it’s just over Tower Bridge.“The athletes may think about it more with both prize money and bonus points. It’s a great idea. London just seems to pushing the benchmark for coming up with new ideas.”
Today Abbott presented Weir with a surprise cheque for $20,000 for the Weir Archer Academy, recognising his years of achievement over the marathon distance. “I was speechless” he beams. “The Academy was a dream in 2008 when I wanted to help the next generation. You have to fight with smaller charities but we’re getting planning permission for a training centre, so this will go a massive way in supporting us.”
At 61, Heinz Frei is also on the Start Line this year. The Swiss veteran won the race three times in the 1990s and was second to Weir in 2011. But the thought of going on as long as Frei is not on Weir’s mind.
“No chance,” says Weir who has given up track racing to concentrate on the marathon. “I’m happy now because I’m getting summers and weekends off. I see my kids more and I’m enjoying it. It’s my 40th birthday in June so I’m going to train up until the end of May and have a few weeks off.”
Sunday’s race doubles as the World Para Athletics Marathon Championships, so there are medals as well as prize money on offer, and the top four will qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. It’s a goal of Weir’s to get back on the ParalympicsGB team and chase another marathon gold in Tokyo after winning four events at London 2012.
“I definitely don’t miss the track,” says Weir. “The guys are going too fast for me anyway. I’ve still got the hunger, but I’m glad to focus on just one event.”
Share this article on facebook?
Tweet about this article?