Weirwolf of London: The man they call 'The Animal' is going for his fourth gold medal of the Paralympics
19:57 GMT, 8 September 2012
David Weir, muscles popping, veins bulging, teeth bared and chest exposed, threatened to live up to his 'Weirwolf' nickname and burst clean through his vest.
The man they call 'The Animal' had completed the first part of a challenge set eight years ago by the woman he calls 'The Beast'.
David the Goliath: David Weir captures his third Paralympic gold medal in the Olympic Stadium
After covering more than nine miles in seven days, he roared across the line for a third gold in the Olympic Stadium, a T54 800m title, to add to the 5,000m and 1,500m golds he won in the week.
The second part of the challenge begins at 11.30am today, as he wheels down The Mall to begin a 26.2-mile assault on the streets of London in the marathon.
If he wins, it would surely propel him above Bradley Wiggins, Jess Ennis and Mo Farah as the greatest achiever of this finest summer of sport.
Only then will Jenny Archer, a grandmother, coach and 'The Beast' behind his success, allow him to reflect upon his achievements.
'After his first gold I said, “one down, three to go”,' she revealed. 'Then it was, “two down, two to go”. And on Thursday I said, “you've done your job on the track, now for the road”.'
Archer is a relentless taskmistress. She has put in place a rigorous training regime, involving former professional cyclists as pacemakers and a back-up team of physiotherapists and sports psychologists, to ensure the man she first coached as an eight-year-old delivers on their pact.
Weir the best: David celebrates his gold in the the T54 800m with his girlfriend Emily
'I've always kept an eye on his progress after getting him into sport as a kid,' said Archer.
'He came back to me just before the
Athens Paralympics where he won one bronze and I asked him what his
goals were. He said he wanted to be No1 in the world, break world
records, win gold medals, European titles and, most of all, to win in
London. I promised to take him there.
'I knew once he got the 5,000m [his first final, last Friday] out of the way he could win them all.'
Weir competed at the Atlanta Games in 1996 as a 17-year-old, finishing out of the medals in the 100m final.
The sparse crowds and lack of interest in Britain proved his undoing,
as he fell out of love with wheelchair racing, preferring to go
'clubbing with mates' at home in Wallingford, Oxfordshire.
Four years later, he sat on his sofa at home in tears watching Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson compete at the Sydney Games.
'Dave has natural talent,' said Archer. 'But he needed someone there to
push him and the only way to do it was to give him a kick up the
backside. I taught him a whole new way of thinking about his training. I
said, “if you want all this you'll have to change your outlook. You
have to come to Richmond Park at 7.30am and be out on the track until
half six at night. He has not wavered from his training once in eight
Archer is the queen of exercising change in athletes.
For 11 years she was fitness coach at Wimbledon FC, charged with bringing the 'Crazy Gang', including Dennis Wise and Vinnie Jones, under control.
'They called me a “Hitler” but all that work I made them do meant they won the FA Cup. I'm doing the same with Dave. He calls me “The Beast” because I'm there bringing out the best in him,' she said.
It is the speed work which Weir dreads so much – one training session a week includes 12 sets of 100m sprints – that has seen him prevail over one of the toughest fields in Paralympic athletics.
As he rounded the final bend of the 800m on Thursday, the Swiss racer Marcel Hug stuck with Weir.
But to howls from the British athletes watching and screams from 80,000 spectators, Weir produced a turbo-charged finish.
Hug, who has trailed in Weir's wake three times this week and will oppose him again in the marathon, is at a loss to explain his extra pace.
Marathon man: David Weir facing another test on Sunday
'I just couldn't do anything to beat him,' he said. 'He is so fast, so strong and the crowd were like an extra wind behind him. His chair is a different brand but the only real difference is that it was going quicker than mine. He just has a better way of attack. I don't know how he does it.'
Perhaps at 33, in the form of his life and with a dogged determination, he is simply unbeatable at the moment
'I don't know about that,' said Weir. 'The marathon is going to be tough. I've done the mileage to cover all those distances, but you can't train for these emotions.
'There's no way you can match it in training. You can't get your adrenaline up like it is when you're winning medals and down for your next competition, it's impossible.'
Weir has beaten most of his opposition in the marathon two or three times already in the last 10 days.
He is the man with the target on his back for good reason.
The Japanese tattoo on his chest, which translates as 'to win' may not be on display – he will wear new kit after a malfunction meant he crossed the line after his 800m final on Thursday with half a top – but he is out to conquer.
And after three eight-mile laps of central London and a 2.2-mile ring around St James' Park, he will return into the arms of his pregnant girlfriend Emily, his two children – and perhaps sporting immortality.
Marathon: T54 category, Starts 11.30, Sunday, The Mall