Great Britain’s David Weir made history on Sunday (29 May) as he became the first athlete ever to complete a mile in under three minutes at the Vitality Westminster Mile festival of road racing in central London.
The six-times London Marathon wheelchair winner was blessed with warm sun and dry roads as he flew around the course that skirts St James’s Park in the heart of Westminster to cross the finish line in front of Buckingham Palace, clocking two minutes 57 seconds to smash his former world best time of 3:03.
It was a fitting way to mark this Paralympic year at the fourth edition of an event set up as part of the legacy programme for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“I’ve always said I could do it,” said Weir, who described his commanding victory over South African rival Ernst van Dyk as a “perfect race”.
“I knew it was possible and training has gone really well. The team behind me have been telling me to get it right. I knew I had to get off to a quick start and that Ernst would chase hard. I knew from last year that my start let me down.
“I was more relaxed down Birdcage Walk, but I was still pushing at 22 miles an hour and that’s not bad,” added Weir, who claimed the fourth of his quartet of London 2012 gold medals when he won the Paralympic Games wheelchair marathon on these streets two years ago, but could only finish third at last month’s Virgin Money London Marathon.
“I was disappointed with London so that gave me a bit more to think about,” said Weir. “I wanted to prove a point that I was still up there with the best in the world.”
Weir raced around the C-shaped route from The Mall to Spur Road with van Dyk, the 10-times Boston Marathon champion, on his tail. Van Dyk challenged the Briton in the early stages but the Briton was just too quick and opened a large gap in the second half.
Weir won his fourth straight Westminster Mile title, retaining the British Athletics men’s wheelchair road mile crown he won 12 months ago in 3:03, having taken the inaugural contest in 2013 in 3:09 and the 2014 race in 3:07.