Anniversary Games: David Weir’s successful repeat brings down the curtain on return to Olympic Stadium
Londoner shakes off indifferent 2013 form to electrify 60,000 crowd with T54 mile triumph
The Olympic Stadium
Sunday 28 July 2013
At his Croydon home, David Weir regularly pores over DVDs from his races in London 2012. So involved does he get in reliving them that he recently admitted he worries about losing as they reach their climax.
There should be no such concern should he spend any of this week watching a repeat of his return to the Olympic Stadium so dominant was his performance and the margin of victory in the T54 invitation mile.
Not once did he look in danger of defeat roared on by 60,000 people with the same sort of delirium that had previously greeted the Weirwolf less than a year ago, bringing back the feelgood factor to Paralympic sport.
Weir had brought the Paralympics to a close with his fourth gold in the marathon, and his win yesterday proved the last of three days of action at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games inside the stadium before the bulldozers roll in to prepare for a completely different sporting landscape as West Ham United’s future home.
It was perhaps ironic that a diehard Arsenal fan should bring the curtain down, capping a mixed season for the 34-year-old. Following Oscar Pistorius’ arrest, charged with the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, Weir has become arguably the focal point for international Paralympics although by no means with the same global clout as Pistorius.
After all, Weir has liked to point out “I’m still Dave from Croydon” amid all the fanfare of last summer, in which he won gold in the 800m, 1500m, 5,000m and marathon.
Results wise, this season has been well off his usual lofty standards. He failed to have the final burst of speed required to go for a seventh London Marathon win and, at the end of last month lost out to rival Marcel Hug over 1500m in Birmingham.
Back then he had only been back in training for a week and a half and had promised to come back stronger by London and prove to be a fighter in his home city. Yesterday, he did exactly that.
Having swapped his customary red helmet for a white one, he remained the big draw. He slotted into third place at the start and then moved to the front in the home straight of the second lap before pulling clear to win by 10 seconds from Fernando Sanchez Nava.
Weir admitted he had been more nervous coming out for a question-and-answer session earlier in the day than lining up on the start line, and he looked relaxed from the outset.
His margin of victory reiterated the fact he is top dog – or should that be top wolf – and he talked of the “big buzz of coming back to the stadium”.
“I wanted to go quicker, that was the plan,” said Weir who had targeted being on 1500m world-record pace but fell shy to finish in 3min 16.4 sec. Of looking back to last year, he said: “Twelve months ago was special – I can never replicate that.”
Much of 2013 has been about escapism from that 2012 bubble. He took large chunks of time off from training to spend with his girlfriend Emily and the couple’s two children Mason and Tillia, opting against travelling abroad to spend more time at home.
It meant him missing the recent World Championships in Lyons, no doubt to the chagrin of the International Paralympic Committee.
He will now celebrate his victory with a rare family holiday – two weeks in St Tropez where he said his first goal was an ice-cold beer – before returning to training to plot his next racing ambitions, the first of which is the Great North Run on 15 September.
Depending on how he fares at the Great North Run, he will either focus on returning to the New York Marathon, which he last raced and won in 2010, or else bring his season to a close and focus on next year, where road racing will predominantly be the focus.
Fellow wheelchair athlete Hannah Cockroft had only arrived back to her London hotel at midnight the previous evening and had been kept awake by the snoring of her room-mate Mel Nicholls.
But Cockroft looked far from tired in a similarly dominant performance in the T33/34 100m final. The double Paralympic champion broke the stadium record set in London last summer with a time of 17.80 seconds and was nearly a second-and-a-half clear of her closest challenger, Rosemary Little.
“I was looking at my time thinking I could do better than that,” admitted Cockroft. “But it’s amazing to be back here. I nearly cried. It’s just incredible noise.”
Cockroft will turn 21 tomorrow and will celebrate it in Helsinki, where her brother Joshua, who works for Ikea, lives, as part of a week’s holiday. “It’s somewhere different, I’ll celebrate my 21st and not have the stress of training all the time,” she added.
She is scheduled to compete just once more before the end of the season at a meeting in Coventry, where she plans to dress up as Wonder Woman.
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