Men's Wheelchair: Weir wins record fifth
David Weir celebrated his record fifth win in the Virgin London Marathon today after he beat Swiss master Heinz Frei in a fantastic sprint finish. The Briton's victory was even sweeter, coming just 500 days before the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games.
In one of the greatest finishes the marathon has seen, it was youth versus experience, as the three-times winner and 53-year-old Frei challenged Weir for the title.
"This was probably one of the toughest marathons I have ever done," said Weir who finished in 1:30:05, just two seconds ahead the world record holder. "I kept surging and Heinz kept up with me, so I knew he was going to be with me all the way. It means a lot to beat such a legend."
Weir has endured two years of bad luck with illness and technical, but the athlete, who won in 2002, and from 2006 to 2008, was feeling in good shape after his New York victory last November. He changed his racing chair before that win and chose the same one today for the perfect London conditions.
Six leaders raced together, with year's winner Josh Cassidy of Canada, Spain's Roger Puigbo Verdaguer, the PoleTomasz Hamerlak and Japan's alongside Weir and Frei. At 20 miles, Weir looked to be one of the strongest but as the finish grew nearer, Frei showed that he was going to support Weir in his bid to claim five.
"Heinz turned to me and said, ‘I'm going to help you,'" said Weir. "That just shows how much respect we have for each other."
The leading two broke away from the other four as they came into the finishing straight and Weir edged ahead at the line. Frei crossed in 1:30:07, and both were quick to recognise how good a race it had been.
"The last couple of miles were really tough, but it was brilliant to win," Weir said.
Frei was graceful in defeat. "It was a good race for an old man like me. The first half is tough because it has slight inclines. In the second half I wanted to try and help David as much as I could. I knew he had more power towards the end, but I am happy with my overall performance."
Third went to Hamerlak in 1:30:54, followed by Puigbo Verdaguer, one second behind, and last year's winner Cassidy who was fifth in 1:30:56.
After the race Weir dedicated his win to his long-time coach, Jenny Archer, an influential part of his life since he was eight, whose mother died recently. Now with his record fifth London win, Weir can look ahead to the Games.
"This is another stepping stone to 2012," he said. "I wasn't thinking about it before this race, as it's important to stay focussed. Now I will see what happens with the rest of the track season before I return here next year. It is great to win today with 500 days to go."