14th December 2010

High Class Competition Awaits Weir In New Zealand

14 December 2010

Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s David Weir (coach: jenny Archer) believes the T54 class of men’s wheelchair racing has never been stronger and cannot wait to go head-to-head with his rivals at January’s IPC Athletics World Championships to prove he is still one of the best.

Weir is one of the more than 1,000 athletes from 70 countries due to compete in New Zealand (21-30 January 2011) and will arrive in Christchurch with an impressive track record including two Paralympic Games gold medals from Beijing in 2008 and three world titles from 2006.

However, after having a number of his world records taken from him by Switzerland’s `Silver Bullet’ Marcel Hug during 2010, the London born Brit is well aware that he has work to do to prove he is still the man to beat.

"The classification I’m in – T54 for men – is the toughest in the world," Weir told www.paralympic.org, the International Paralympic Committee’s website.

"To be in the top three in the world is great. It’s like being a non-disabled sprinter, as there is just so much competition. To be in the top three proves you’re one of the best.

"Everyone is coming up to the standard I was three years ago. Back then I was a step ahead in training and a step ahead in racing, but now it’s a case of knocking hundredths of seconds off times rather than full seconds."

In Christchurch Weir will be racing over a number of distances (800m, 1500m, 5000m and marathon) and has singled out a number of his rivals as people he must beat in order to win gold.

"Marcel is currently the world’s best at 800m upwards, he’s definitely the one to beat," he said. "I think the pressure is on him as he’s now got four World Records.

"I also need to look out for Kurt Fearnley. I don’t think he’s on the track at the World Championships, just doing the marathon, so he’s going to be the one to watch in that. It’s his one race and he’s pretty good at it, in fact he’s unbeaten at a major championships in the marathon!

"Ernst Van Dyk is always a danger on the road and then on the track in addition to Marcel you’ve got Josh Cassidy and the Chinese if they come. You never know with them.

"Really though you can’t tell until you get there as there is always someone who comes through the ranks from nowhere," he added.

Should Weir win a number of gold medals in Christchurch then he will go a step further to emulating his hero Heinz Frei, the Swiss wheelchair racer who won 32 Paralympic Games medals including 14 golds during a glittering career.

"I loved watching him race and dominate people on the track," said Weir. "He would absolutely destroy the field and they could not live with him.

"I always wanted to be like that, break World Records and dominate races so that no one could compete against me."

Despite Frei coming to the end of his career when Weir broke onto the scene, the Brit got a thrill from racing his hero and still does today.

"What made my day was when we raced at the European Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden," he said. "I beat him by about 80m in the 1500m and when we were getting our medals he shook my hand and said it was a privilege to be in the race with me.

"That’s when I started to realise that someone I looked up to at an early age now had that much respect for me."

Weir’s first medal success was at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games where he won silver in the 100m and bronze in the 200m.

Two years later at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Assen, the Netherlands he won three gold medals – 100m, 400m and 1500m – as well as silver in the 200m.

In Beijing two years ago he tasted Paralympic gold for the first time winning the 800m and 1500m. He also picked up silver in 400m and bronze in the 5000m.

In Christchurch his target is to win at least one gold medal.

"I say that going into all major Championships because the T54 men’s event is the toughest in the world. If you win one, great, but if you win more you are a greater racer," he said.

"I’d be happy to come away with gold in one, and top three in the rest."

Weir is just one of the big names set to compete at the IPC Athletics World Championships next month.  Other include South Africa’s `Blade Runner’ Oscar Pistorius, Irish sprinter and `Fastest Paralympian on Earth’ Jason Smyth and the Brazilian sprinting duo of Terezinha Guilhermina and Lucas Prado.

Tickets to see the event, which runs from 21-30 January 2011, are now on-sale and can be purchased from www.ticketdirect.co.nz.

For the latest news about the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships, please visit: www.ipcathleticsworldchamps.com

For more information about IPC Athletics, please visit http://ipc-athletics.paralympic.org.

Daily session reports will be published on the UKA website.

See Weir in action in the trailer for the IPC Athletics World Championship at www.youtube.com/watch?v=auO77DyYMMk.