Commonwealth Games 2014: David Weir finally has chance to grab missing gold in T54 1500m
Weir boasts 13 golds and 20 medals at Paralympic, world and European level but his medal tally for the Commonwealth Games is zilch
Monday 28 July 2014
In Melbourne 2006, David Weir was not in good enough shape to race, while in Delhi 2010 safety fears led him to stay away. But in Glasgow the Weirwolf is ready to grit his teeth and go for the one gold missing from his collection.
Weir boasts 13 golds and 20 medals at Paralympic, world and European level but his medal tally for the Commonwealth Games is zilch.
“It’s the last thing left on my tick list,” he says. “As an event it’s important to me and it’s always been in the back of my mind but I’ve never had the right opportunity to compete. For Melbourne, I wasn’t in the right place for racing and Delhi wasn’t right for me with other things to do. But now feels the right time.”
In the build-up to these Games, Weir pondered what the reaction to him in an England jersey on Scottish soil might be. But the Scots have been more than gracious throughout and a special cheer will be reserved for Weir after the heroics on those heady 10 days in London when he won four Paralympic golds in British colours.
When Weir sets his mind to a task, he usually succeeds, but should he get the better of rivals such as Kurt Fearnley, of Australia, and Canadian Josh Cassidy in the T54 1500m, which begins with the heats tomorrow, and pick up the one missing gold, this will not be some sort of career swansong in Glasgow.
At 35, he knows he is in the twilight of his racing years but the Paralympics in two years’ time still remain the ultimate endgame. The conversations have started about his training programme leading up to the Rio de Janeiro Games, although he believes a repeat of his quadruple gold rush could be beyond even his admirable reach.
“I honestly don’t know what events I’ll do,” he says. “I don’t know about going for four again. That could be a one-off. The marathon is the big question mark because of the amount of training it requires. That’s the one really tricky one but I haven’t made a decision about what I’ll do. There’s a lot of racing before then.”
In Glasgow he just has his heat and final, which is scheduled for Thursday night, but his preparations have been near perfect. Gone are the shoulder problems that have dogged him intermittently for the past two years; effectively, he says, his damaged shoulder appears to have rebuilt itself during the time off he took in the wake of London 2012.
And, compared with two years ago, he argues he might actually be a better athlete. “I feel in better shape than in 2012,” he says. “OK, my overall fitness might have been better in London with all the marathon training but I’m definitely quicker. It’s a strange one as I didn’t think I could get quicker than I was in 2012, but that’s definitely the guess. I’m surprised but happily surprised.”
Weir has already celebrated victory at Hampden Park, over the same distance at the Diamond League event there earlier this month, and says that he is confident, though not overconfident, about his chances going into the racing tomorrow. Whether the Weirwolf cries of two years ago resurface are another matter, but he takes great pride in having helped put Paralympic sport on the map.
“In terms of the Paralympic legacy, I think that’s thriving,” he says. “You’ve got the para-sport events running alongside the able-bodied athletes in the Commonwealth Games, which has been the case for a while and is a great thing.
“But then there’s issues like the TV coverage. My race in Glasgow the other weekend was the headline, the last event on Channel 4, which even went off air before the 100 metres final. It shows how importantly it’s being taken now.”
Then there is his own personal crusade, the Weir-Archer Academy set up in the golden haze of 2012 with his long-time coach, Jenny Archer, aimed at coaching top-level athletes but also getting more people of all levels of sporting expertise involved.
“I get so much pride from doing that,” he says. “We’ve got 10 athletes at the moment competing at international level. But it’s then all the other people of all levels competing. That legacy makes my life.”
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