Three-time world champion David Weir, who celebrated his fifth Virgin London Marathon title with victory in the capital in April, is ready for an exciting head to head with Marcel Hug of Switzerland, one of his biggest rivals, in the Knowsley Disability Athletics Grand Prix on 21-22 May.
The event, organised by UKA and hosted by Knowsley, will take place at Kirkby Sports College on a high performance Mondo track - the fastest surface currently used in track and field in the world - and will support athletes targeting qualifying standards for the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
Weir, double Paralympic Champion in Beijing, re-affirmed his position as the leading wheelchair racer in the world when taking gold in the T54 800m, 1500m and 5000m in the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships in New Zealand, and following the recent release of UKA’s selection policy for the 2012 Paralympic Games, his attention is focused on achieving qualification standards for London in 15 months time.
Hug, runner-up to Weir in all three events in New Zealand, took five World Championship medals in total on that occasion, most notably 10,000m gold in addition to silver in the T54 400m. The pair will line up together in four events at the Knowsely meet.
“Paralympic athletics continues to grow and the quality and professionalism of athletes today is like nothing we’ve seen in the sport before now,” said 31-year-old Weir.
“We’re getting more opportunities to race against top quality opposition and by competing regularly against one another, like Marcel (Hug) and I will do in Knowsley, we can push those performances even further.”
“Winning in New Zealand, which was the last major Paralympic competition prior to London, gave me a huge boost and a lot of confidence,” he added. “I’ve continued to work hard in training with my coach Jenny Archer since we returned to the UK and that definitely showed in the Virgin London Marathon, but it’s really important that I stay focused and build on those performances throughout this summer.”
A total of 96 athletes from nine nations, including strong teams from Brazil, Switzerland and Canada, will be represented in Knowsely making it the largest disability event in the UK this year to date.
Councillor Eddie Connor, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Community and Culture (Knowsley), said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase our facilities to other nations and for Knowsley to be involved in and prepare elite athletes for the 2012 Games. We look forward to giving all the athletes a very warm welcome and highlighting our excellent facilities at what will be an exciting weekend. I hope our Disability Athletics Grand Prix event will inspire all people to take part in sport, whatever their ability.”