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Weir living Olympic dream

Published:Wednesday | July 4, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Jamaican sprinter Warren Weir at the National Stadium yesterday. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Daviot Kelly, Staff Reporter

Warren Weir looks down at the blue track at the National Stadium, the events of Sunday still fresh in his mind. That was the day he fulfilled his dream of qualifying for the Olympics.

"The last 60 metres I was saying to myself, 'I'm not on the plane, I'm actually on the wing' and I said to myself 'remember what coach (Glen) Mills said, hold your form, remember your training'!"

Weir, 22, said after he crossed the finish line in the 200 metres, he wasn't quite sure he had finished third.

"I was looking at the screen trying to make sure I had made it before I started celebrating," told The Gleaner. "When I got the third, words can't express what went through my mind and how I felt."

Weir said he ran over to his agent thanking him and asking him to get his mother, girlfriend and family out of the stands so he could thank them too.

"And when coach Mills came around, all I could say was 'thanks very much'," he said, noting that Mills had told him from high school that he would turn him into a sprinter because he didn't see him as a hurdler.

That's right, Weir was a 110 metre hurdler and vice-captain of Calabar's Boys' Athletics Championship team. He turned to the 200 metres last year after constant knee issues.

"It would set me back for days or even weeks so we (coach Mills and himself) decided we were going to do something else," he recalled. The distance was not completely alien to him though.

"A lot of people don't know that my PR (personal record) in high school (at 200 metres) was 20.88, but apart from that I only ran the 200 metres during development meets."

Weir has consistently been going faster since taking up the event, 2011 being his breakout year. In his first Diamond League meet last August, he clocked 20.43. That time was followed by times of 20.21 at the Jamaica International Invitational on May 5 and 20.13 in The Cayman Islands three days later. He ran a then-personal best 20.08 at the Adidas Grand Prix meet in New York in June.

PB in semis

Weir ran 20.03 in the final at the National Trials on Sunday, but his personal best is 19.99, which he did in the semi-finals.

"Leaving high school in 2009, I said I had a vision. I called it Vision 2012. I wanted to make the team but at that time I wanted to hurdle not knowing eventually that in 2012 I would be running the 200 metres," said Weir, who admitted he wanted to make the team from 2009 while still in high school.

"It is an honour to be representing Jamaica at the Olympics. This was my first senior games. To know that I am coming from the hurdles to a flat sprint event, for a sprinting country, it feels very good."

Even though he grew up in Waterford, Weir was born in Trelawny, the little town of Refuge (between Duncans and Falmouth). He laughs at the fact that Olympic champions Usain Bolt, Veronica Campbell-Brown and other athletes are fellow Trelawny natives.

"As people from Trelawny say, even if you didn't grow there but you were born there. I just think that like the Kenyans are for long distance, Trelawny and the west is just for top athletes."

He said everyone from Refuge to Waterford has been excited at his achievement.

"They are saying it's great that a little toddler who they saw coming up through the community is now on the world stage," he said. "It's been an excellent reception from everybody."

His last year at Calabar though, Weir had a stress fracture that forced him to miss Champs. Looking at the points he felt he would have contributed, he is certain 'Rabalac' would have been victorious.

"But it made me stronger because people were criticising me, but it motivated me to push on," said Weir.

Being a part of the Racers Track Club, where he's been since turning pro in 2009, he trains alongside the two men who finished ahead of him on Sunday.

"They (Bolt and Yohan Blake) are very good friends of mine. I would say it's like training with the gods of track and field. I'm training with the two fastest men in the world and the best coach in the world so it's a blessing," he said.

At the national trials, he said the goal Mills set was just to make sure he qualified during the different rounds, not to place too much emphasis on winning every race. In the semi-finals he finished behind Blake.

"It was my easiest race, I ran a personal best in that race. So we achieved that and made it to the finals and said 'all right, this is now or never'," he recalled. "The last advice coach gave me was 'no matter where you are, finish the race strong, don't tie up, just keep swinging'. And that was what punched me my ticket to London." He has big plans for London.

"First and foremost I'm just going there to stay healthy, take it round by round with the ultimate objective to get to the final and get to the highest point possible."

Now that more people will be knowing his name, Weir is confident he will stay grounded.

"I always prep myself for certain scenarios so if anything should come along the way in terms of stardom or anything, I don't think I'll be distracted to a level where it will throw me off at training," he said. He wants to be seen as more than an athlete, but as an activist, giving to children worldwide, especially those who don't have any spikes to try chasing their dreams.

"I don't want people to think I'm doing volunteering just to have a good public image. I want to be seen like I'm doing it out of natural love."