The six-time Paralympic gold medallist says British wheelchair racing is looking good as he gets ready to race at his last Games
David Weir is preparing to contest five events at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Unlike at London 2012, where the British wheelchair athlete won four gold medals, the 4x400m relay forms part of his plans and, as well as racing, the 37-year-old is also getting ready to metaphorically pass on the baton.
“This will be my last Paralympics,” confirms Weir, who is set to race the T54 400m, 800m, 1500m, marathon and 4x400m relay in Rio. “I couldn’t do another four-year cycle to be honest, not for the track. It’s tough going. I’ve been racing for a long time.”
Weir has been a GB international for the past two decades and on the new talent coming through, he adds: “It’s good to see. It takes the pressure off me doesn’t it, a little bit, going into Rio.
“For the future, it’s looking great in British wheelchair racing as a whole. A lot of youngsters are coming through. It’s just great to see what London 2012 did for British wheelchair racing.”
The Jenny Archer-coached athlete made his Paralympic debut 20 years ago in Atlanta but was left disillusioned by his experience. He then missed Sydney in 2000 but has competed at each Games since, claiming a total of 10 medals.
“Atlanta was a disappointment because of how it was, it didn’t feel like a massive Paralympics to me,” Weir says, reflecting on his Paralympic career. “It took me away from the sport. But Sydney, I was sitting at home watching it on TV thinking ‘what have I done, why have I come out of this sport? Look how great it is’. Then I had to really train hard to make sure I got back on to the squad and could get to Athens.
“Athens was my stepping stone, winning my first Paralympic medals,” he adds. “After that you want more success.
“[For] Beijing I didn’t have the best preparation because I had glandular fever but I still came away with four medals. Obviously the next stage was London and to deliver at the highest stage I could possibly be at in my career. I came away with four gold medals, which was an amazing achievement for me.”
And now, on to Rio. Major budget cuts and poor ticket sales mean the event has been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons but Weir, who claimed 800m, 1500m, 5000m and marathon titles in London, is confident that the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is doing all it can.
“I was obviously annoyed at the start and very disappointed that Rio have let a lot of Paralympians down,” he says. “It seems like the IPC have worked really hard and put their foot down and said ‘well actually, you promised this in the bid and you need to deliver on your promise’.
“It’s only small steps but it seems like they are doing something out there and pushing it forwards as best they can. All I’ve got to do is perform on the track.”
When it comes to performing – is Weir looking to emulate his medal haul from four years ago with five golds?
“I’m in very good shape,” he says. “I’m really looking forward to getting out there and racing and doing the best I can. Winning medals is what I like to do.
“I never go saying ‘I’m going to go for five gold medals’,” he adds. “I just want a medal to be honest. I’m lucky that I can do five events. I’ve got that opportunity – if something goes wrong in the first one, I’ve got another opportunity to win a gold medal.”