Athletics: David 'Weirwolf' Weir proves pack leader for third gold

 

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The Independent Online

Three down; one to go. "The Weirwolf of London" claimed another set of victims and a third gold medal last night.

David Weir might not have the facial hair to live up to the nickname given to him for the Paralympics on his home town turf, but he can sure scare the life out of his fellow wheelchair racers. Accompanied by howls from the athletes' section and deafening roars from the 80,000 crowd, the 33-year-old Londoner struck in the T54 800m final, sprinting to victory off the final bend.

The Weirwolf has now retained both the 800m and 1500m titles he won in Beijing four years ago and claimed the 1500m crown. It will take a brave man to bet against him – let alone challenge him – when it comes to the marathon in central London on Sunday.

As in the 5,000m final last Sunday and in the final of the 1500m on Tuesday, Weir judged his tactics to perfection. Settling into second place from the off, he tucked in behind the pacesetter, Lixin Zhang of China, avoiding a collision 300m into the race that took out Julien Casoli of France.

Weir had to dig deep as Zhang tried to break him down the back straight on the second lap but he managed to do so and timed his attack to perfection as he came off the final bend, flying past Zhang and also resisting the late charge of Switzerland's Marcel Hug. He finished 0.19sec clear of Hug in 1min 37.63sec."I've had some amazing finals and the emotion of it has been incredible," Weir said. "I've actually had to check myself and choke the tears back on the start line but it's hard not to get caught up in the emotion of how the crowd has got behind the athletes, and not just me.

"Yesterday I finally felt shattered by it all. I made sure I was in bed by 9pm to be ready for the 800m final. The toughest one of the four golds I'm going for is the marathon. There's so many highs and lows to it. It's not like a standard track race. It's just a totally different feel as a racer. But I'll be going for gold. It's the four golds I want."

Having won the wheelchair section of the London Marathon for a record sixth time in April this year, Weir will start as clear favourite for the 26.2-mile event on Sunday, which both starts and finishes in front of Buckingham Palace.

There are sure to be a fair few howls of support then too. The nickname has stuck, the public address system blasting out Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" as Weir took his warm-up lap last night.

"The first I heard of 'The Weirwolf' was from one of our team doctors, Rob, who came up with the nickname," Weir said. "Now all the team are calling me the Weirwolf of London. I like it. I think it's funny.

"There have been a lot of messages and tweets from people.

"I've heard from Usain Bolt, Bradley Wiggins, all sorts really, and the Weirwolf has even been trending. It's a bit mad."

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