David Weir: Weirwolf of London is still hungry for records


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The Independent Online

How do you follow London 2012? It’s a quandary that has bedevilled the likes of Jessica Ennis-Hill, Bradley Wiggins and David Weir.

While Ennis-Hill has had injury to contend with and Wiggins paints the picture of being somewhat tormented by his loss of form and fitness last year, Weir appears to have taken the step back from the competition limelight in his stride.

As majestic as the four-time London gold medallist was during nine heady days in September 2012, behind the scenes the 34-year-old has habitually been a worrier, fretting about niggles, his own form and fitness and the capabilities of his rivals.

But it is amazing what a quartet of golds draped around your neck can do, Weir claiming this is the happiest he has ever been in his skin as he prepares to return to competition on British soil in tomorrow’s Silverstone Half Marathon.

“I know there’s nothing left to prove,” says the wheelchair racer, who in the wake of London packed up his racing lycra, took four months off and enjoyed his moment of glory.

There was an attempt to win a seventh London Marathon title last year – he is currently tied for the record on six with Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson – but, with so few weeks of training in his arms, he understandably faltered home in a disappointing fifth place.

At the time, he was, he admits, “gutted” but reflecting later he realised it was no bad thing, that he had been right to take time off with his girlfriend Emily, his daughter Ronie and the couple’s two children Mason and Tillia.

Looking back, he says: “2013 wasn’t about times and medals, it was about recovery from 2012, not just 2012 but the years building up to it. I expected mentally to feel like that with the amount of major championships I’d done. I had to stop, there was no choice.”

But Weir is now back and it was on the streets of Sydney on 26 January that the Weirwolf officially marked the recapture of his best 2012 form. Of course, there had previously been a win at the London Anniversary Games, as well as the Great North Run in the latter part of the 2013 season, but Weir knows that it was while basking in the Australian sunshine in the Sydney 10k that he was properly back.

The irony is not lost on the proud Brit that the victory was delivered on Australia Day over Australian rival Kurt Fearnley – “we’ve not done that well in Australia in sport recently,” he says deadpan.

“Josh Cassidy [one of his main rivals] said to me it’s the best shape he’s ever seen me in in January but I didn’t believe it until we raced,” he says. “Mentally and physically, right now is the best I’ve felt since London 2012. It’s nice to get the hunger and confidence back.”

But where does the hunger stem from exactly for an athlete who admits he has nothing else left to prove? He has a myriad of career goals left, not least the next Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

“I’ll 100 per cent be in Rio,” he says without even a modicum of doubt in his voice. “I don’t know what events I’ll do – it’ll be good to do all four again [the 800m, 1500m, 5000m and the marathon] but I don’t know what sort of shape or form I’ll be in.

“But it’s not just that. There’s lots of stuff still to do on my CV. I want that seventh London Marathon title, I also want to win the Boston Marathon this year. I know that’d mean winning both marathons in the space of the week but I believe I can do it.

“It’s a big year on the track too. I want that British record for the 10k - I want all those records, I want world records, too. I’ve got races in Switzerland and then there’s the Commonwealth Games where I’ll go in the 1500m. I know I’m not getting any younger but I’ve still got the top speed to match Marcel Hug [his Swiss rival] and he’s 27. That makes me happy. I still don’t think I’ve peaked as an athlete.”