Athletics: David Weir is hailed as 'best wheelchair racer of all time' after fourth gold

 

It was a marathon but it might as well have been just a sprint. Apart from the start and a couple of fixed-camera shots on each of the four laps, all Channel Four showed of the final race on the Paralympic athletics programme yesterday was the 350m dash for the finish line.

Those of us gathered on the Mall saw even less – just the 31 wheelchair racers in the T54 men's marathon flash by once every 10km lap.

At least we could see "The Weirwolf of south London" emerging from the leading pack to claim his fourth gold medal of the Games. Not that David Weir was aware of his latest golden moment. Not precisely, anyway. There was no celebration from the 33-year-old as he crossed the line on his chariot of fire, to howls of delight from the crowds massed in the shadow of Buckingham Palace.

"I didn't know where the finishing line was," Weir confessed. "That's why I looked a bit moody.

"I didn't know if it was the first line or the second line. Then I saw the lead car stop down the end of the Mall, so I thought, 'Maybe it's down there,' because there was no tape. That's why I carried on pushing. I just didn't know."

As if the Forrest Gump of wheelchair racing hadn't done enough pushing at these Games. Winner of the 5,000m the previous Sunday, of the 1,500m on Wednesday and of the 800m on Friday, his literal and metaphorical marathon effort yesterday actually took him across the line in 1hr 30min 21sec – one second ahead of Switzerland's Marcel Hug, the silver medallist, and Australian Kurt Fearnley, who took bronze.

In doing so, Weir joined Tanni Grey-Thompson in the record books. The grand Dame is the only other British track and field athlete to have won four gold medals at a Paralympic Games, a feat she achieved in Barcelona in 1992 and in Sydney in 2000. Lord Weirwolf, anyone?

In seven races (including heats) in nine unforgettable days, the self-effacing, quietly spoken Paralympian from the Roundshaw Estate on the site of the old Croydon Aerodrome (from whence Amy Johnson made her historic flight to Australia in 1930) has wheeled his way into the nation's affections as a great British sporting phenomenon.

Peter Eriksson, head coach of the British athletics team that finished the Games with 11 golds and 29 medals in all, comfortably inside their target, said: "David is the best wheelchair racer in history."

And Eriksson should know. He happens to be the most successful Paralympic coach of all time.

"It was tough, the toughest race I've ever had in my life," Weir said. "In the first five miles I was absolutely dying. I didn't think I was going to manage to cope, with the heat and everything.

"I felt flat. I had to just dig deep and have another energy shot that I took with me just to get me going. The crowd kept me going too. They just give you such a lift. My whole body was tingling."

After a week of disappointment on the track, Shelly Woods also finished with a tingling medal-winning feeling yesterday.

The 26-year-old from Lytham St Annes took silver in the T54 women's marathon, finishing a second down on Shirley Reilly of the United States in 1hr 46min 34sec.

As for the Weirwolf, though, what might his golden haul do for his sport in Britain? "I'm just honoured to see that Paralympic sport has got the recognition it deserves," he said. "I've been banging on about it for years.

"It's about time that we got some recognition because we're superhumans and we're phenomenal athletes." No one will argue with that.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee