17 April 2011
Three-times World Champion David Weir (coach: Jenny Archer) celebrated his record fifth win in the Virgin London Marathon today after he beat Switzerland’s Heinz Frei, one of the most experienced athletes in Paralympic sport and a three-time winner in London himself, in a fantastic sprint finish.
On the day which marked 500 days to go until the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, it was fitting that the duo raced to one of the greatest finishes the marathon has seen.
“This was probably one of the toughest marathons I have ever done, “said Weir. “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 a legend”.
Weir, with previous victories in 2002, 2006 and 2008, had endured two years of bad luck with illness and technical issues with his racing chair, but he was feeling in good shape following his New York win in November and went on to enjoy huge success in January’s IPC Athletics World Championships.
In perfect racing conditions, a pack of six - including defending champion Josh Cassidy (Canada) in addition to Weir and Frei - worked together, and by halfway there was no sign of the punctures which had marred recent years.
At 20 miles Weir, who had passed through half way in 43:58, looked strong but it was clear that Frei, the World Record holder, would battle it out to the finish.
“Heinz turned to me and said, “I’m going to help you,”” admitted Weir. “That just shows how much respect we have for each other”.
The pair broke away into a sprint finish with Weir taking the victory in 1:30:05 ahead of Frei in 1:30:07.
“The last couple of miles were really tough, but it was brilliant to win,” said Weir, who dedicated his win to coach Jenny Archer who has been an influential part of his life since he was eight and who recently lost her mother, while Frei was content to take second: “It was a good race for an old man like me,” he said. “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.”.
And now, with a record-breaking fifth London title, Weir can now look ahead to the London 2012 Paralympic 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 focused, but now I can 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.”
Beijing Paralympic Games medallist Shelly Woods (coach: Peter Eriksson) had to settle for second in the women’s race after a sprint finish, but it was a huge - and deserved - improvement on her sixth place finish 12 months ago where she, like Weir, endured bad luck with punctures.
She was rewarded for her efforts with a new British Record time of 1:46:31 and looked strong in the sprint finish against eventual winner Amanda McGrory (USA), also the winner of last weekend’s Paris Marathon, who was awarded the same time as Woods - also a new course record.
“I was chilled out in the race and was feeling my way round,” explained Woods, who has won the London title only once, in 2007. “Everyone has a plan and you always know it could be a sprint, so I was saving some energy for the finish.”
“I can just hear my mum saying, “can she just not do that last bit!”, but there’s been a dark cloud over this marathon for the last few years for me, so it’s great to be amongst the world’s best women”.
For more information and full results check out the Virgin London Marathon website: www.virginlondonmarathon.com