On the evening when St. Mary’s University announced a partnership with his Academy, David Weir CBE opened up to the Sports Gazette about why he decided to launch the Academy, and his battle with depression.
With six Paralympic gold medals and eight London Marathon titles to his name, Weir has inspired so many throughout his illustrious career and his Academy, which he runs alongside long-time coach Jenny Archer MBE, looks set to produce even more talent in the years to come.
Give us an insight into the importance of Jenny?
I’ve known Jenny for 30 years and what she does is very unique. She’s very good at very individual programs for that person. It’ll be structured towards the individual, and she’s very good at getting the best out of that individual. She’s very good at man management and she can just tell if you up or down, she can just tell. She’s also very good at getting you to the level that you want to get to.
Tell us about your success at London 2012.
It’s probably the best feeling I could ever experience. Not just one but four gold medals in front of your home crowd is special. It’s just an experience you can’t really explain. It’s hard unless you’ve actually experienced it yourself. You try to re-enact it all, look back on it but it’s really difficult to explain. It was a proud moment of my career to race in front of a home crowd and get on the podium which is something special.
What was your thought process after Rio 2016?
I retired from the track but I was always going to do road racing, but I always wanted to make that decision after the last London Marathon the year before the last one. I just didn’t feel that I could give any more on the track as I wasn’t enjoying the training on the track and I wasn’t enjoying the racing on the track. I just felt that I should’ve retired from the track in 2012 and just carried on with road racing. I’m just happy now to race on the road.
How difficult was it to go public with your mental health?
I decided halfway through my race in 2017 that I should come out, which is a mad thing to think about when you’re actually racing. It was a hard decision. If I wouldn’t have lost, I wouldn’t have come out because people would’ve said that it’s an excuse for you for losing, which is wrong but I felt it was the right moment to do it. Just to tell people that you can actually achieve things when you are in deep deep depression. If you focus on something and believe in something that you can achieve and I just felt people should know to be honest, what I went through after Rio. It’s still a battle now, you have your ups and downs and you get through it.
Do you think enough is being done in terms of mental health awareness?
I don’t think there is enough done for athletes that have retired or semi-retired like I am. You feel like you’ve been used a lot, you feel like you’ve won everything you can for them and then you’re forgotten about, which is quite hard for an athlete to take to be honest. I know I’m still performing on the road but sometimes you do feel like you’ve been forgotten about, for all the hard work I’ve done. I think they need a lot more support getting through everyday life. I don’t know anything else apart from wheelchair racing.
What does the future hold?
I have these guys to focus on. Being associated with St. Mary’s is a massive plus for me because I’ve been working here since 2006-07. If I didn’t have this university, there’s no way I would have won all of those gold medals.
How do you relax?
I used to be in music a lot but I don’t have enough time for that. DJing has been my thing that was my pastime. I’ve always been into electronic music from day one as I didn’t like chart music. I always listened to drum and bass and pirate radio so I’ve always been into mixing. That would be my next project when I get time to do that. I love house music and I always have loved house music as I’ve been brought up with it with my family.
Photo Credit: Aramide Oladipo