Laureus Award Nominee David Weir: Still eyeing Rio 2016 Paralympics
March 8, 2013
David Weir, nicknamed the ‘Weir-Wolf’ during the London 2012 Paralympics, won four gold medals at the Games, including the very last race: the wheelchair marathon.
His incredible achievements see him nominated for the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award. With just days to go before he discovers if he is victorious, he talks to Laureus.com about the importance of the home crowd to his success in London, his hopes for the future of disability sport and whether he feels the Weir-Wolf nickname he was given in 2012 is an accurate one.
On the importance of the atmosphere in the London Olympic Stadium.
It was of massive importance, but you can’t just rely on the crowd. This was the first championship in a long time that I had no illness, no injury. I’d had a great winter’s training; it went perfect. I felt so confident in my mind as well. I raced a lot [of my potential Olympic opponents] in May and I noticed a lot of them were peaking then, in May. I knew I had more to give. But the crowd was a massive boost.
It followed you around like a wave. In most stadiums you race in it’s usually just the home straight that’s the loudest. In London, there were no pockets of quietness.
On whether he thought he expected to take all 4 gold medals at London 2012
Deep down, I knew I could because of the way I was training. But you can’t be too confident; you don’t want to be cocky. I thought I just wanted to win one gold, not put too much pressure on myself and if I kept saying to the media I only wanted one gold maybe they would’ve been happy if I did win just one gold medal.
On recognition of GB Paralympians in 2012
It’s massive. Us Paralympians have been crying out for years as a lot of people don’t realise how many medals we’ve won over the years. My 10 medals, the London Marathon victories, world championships and European championships. It’s nice to get this recognition. I hope it carries on and it’s not just for last year.
On Laureus Nomination
This is the second year in a row I’ve been Nominated. It’s one of the biggest accolades in sport to win and it would be a fantastic honour to win the Award. There are some great athletes on the list that have won and I’d love to be one of them. It’s a fantastic Award.
On being a competitive person
I have to be competitive. I hate losing, I don’t know [why]. Maybe being disabled you have to be competitive in life a little bit more than everyone else, I’ve been competitive as long as I can remember. I’ve just wanted to be the best I could. Even at school: maths, English, science, I always wanted to be the best, even though I wasn’t, I always tried my hardest to get there. Even at FIFA. I have to be the best at anything I try at.
Records are there to be broken. I thought 2012 would be my last London Marathon and Games but when I sit and think about it, I don’t want to be equal with Tanni [Grey-Thompson on LM wins] even though she’s a fantastic athlete I don’t like being on par with anyone. It’s another challenge. Once the goals are done, I can sit back, but while the challenges are there I’ll carry on until there are no goals left.
On racing in Rio 2016
It depends on if my body and mind can cope with the training. I change my mind every month it gets closer to the Games. Seven months ago if you’d asked me I’d say there’s no way I’m going to Rio. But what’s changed my mind is that the last few years I’ve been only winning or losing races by millimetres or photo finishes, I thought there was nothing more to give. But the way I won my races in London, by a good two chair lengths, which is a lot, I now know there is still a lot more to give and I can still win by a big margin. That’s what made me change my mind.
On his inspirations growing up
When I watched Barcelona in 1992 and watched Heinz Frei winning races, win marathons and destroying the field on the track, I thought I’d love to do that one day. I looked up to him, he inspired me loads. I ended up racing him a couple of times, but I wish I could’ve raced him in his prime because we would’ve had a great race together
On the effect sport had on him when younger
I was a shy lad when younger and never had a lot of confidence in myself. But going to Athens [in his early twenties], not expecting to win any medals and coming away with a silver and a bronze, that gave me a massive confidence boost in myself. Just getting that first belief in myself has helped me become the successful athlete I am now.
On some of his fellow Laureus Award Nominees
It’s been a fantastic year of sport. What Bradley [Wiggins] did in the Tour and then winning gold is a massive achievement and must have taken its toll on his body. With Alex [Zanardi], he has a great story and winning the handcycling is an amazing achievement. They all have their own stories and they deserve to be on the list for the Award.
On the ‘Weir-wolf’ nickname.
I’m aggressive when I’m racing, you have to be. Not horrible but you need a presence on the track so [the nickname] suits me, when I’m racing. When I’m not racing I’m a gentleman, a humble guy. I get on with everyone. But once you get on that track you have to be selfish, to think of yourself. It suits me there.
On what was going through his head as he finished in 1st place in the Paralympic marathon
You know what, I was a bit confused. We didn’t have anyone standing there with a bit of tape, so I had to look and see where the finishing line was. So for the first few seconds I thought I’d stopped a lap too early. I was so drained, I thought there might be another lap, I was so confused. Then you just want to burst out crying because you’ve achieved the impossible. It’s an amazing feeling to cross the line, win four golds at a home Games. A massive achievement.
On how Boris Johnson let slip his secret use of mid-race beetroot juice
We were in the tent after the marathon, he was giving out the medals and he asked me what shot I drank [during the race] I told him and he didn’t believe me. I told him to have one, it’s better than coffee in the morning, but don’t tell anyone it’s a secret. And then he goes and tells everyone on parade day. But it’s just beetroot juice, but it works for me.
His sport highlight of 2012
Seeing the Olympic Stadium packed every morning was a dream come true. But for me, to win the marathon at the end, to win the last race of London 2012 and having all my family and friends and having my son on my lap, I’ll never forget it.