TRAINING HARD: Warren Weir trains at the University of the West Indies (UWI), in Kingston, Jamaica. Photo: JEAN-PIERRE DURAND for the IAAF
DOWN TO EARTH
Part 9: Weir stays grounded despite global success
Warren Weir got his wish at the inaugural IAAF World Relays in Nassau, Bahamas, last weekend. He helped Jamaica clock a world record time in the men’s 4x200 metres final, the 24-year-old sprinter running the second leg in his team’s one minute, 18.63 seconds golden run.
Weir can now add “world record holder” to his already impressive résumé, joining his Racers Track Club teammates and friends Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake in that select group of athletes.
The Jamaica combination of Nickel Ashmeade, Weir, Jermaine Brown and Blake erased 1:18.68 from the books, ending the 20-year reign of a famous quartet of Santa Monica Track Club/United States sprinters--Mike Marsh, Leroy Burrell, Floyd Heard and the legendary Carl Lewis.
Back in March, Weir had spoken about his desire for a world record. Since I was among the group of international journalists who conducted that interview, I was able to appreciate the level of satisfaction enjoyed by the Trelawny sprinter when “1:18.63” flashed on the scoreboard.
It could not have happened to a nicer guy.
Now is as good a time as any for my full disclosure statement. Warren Weir treated us to lunch at one of his favourite hangout spots in Kingston, the Potwah Restaurant and Bar.
Anyone who knows me well can attest to the fact that tasty meals, especially when served in healthy portions, can easily win me over. And, boy, did that ackee and saltfish taste good.
But seriously, free lunch or not, Weir is genuine, and at the same time fun to be around.
Racers coach Glen Mills has described the 200m specialist as the “heart and soul” of the club.
“Means a lot coming from coach Mills, the guru himself,” says Weir. “If you’re at Racers, be prepared to be pranked. I’m always up for a show, or anything. When you’re around me in training, you’ll remember you have five 500s (to run).”
Weir certainly knows how to have a good time in training. But that in no way takes away from his focus. He is a student of the sport, and makes full use of the opportunity to go through his paces at the same time and on the same track as Bolt and Blake, the top two sprinters on the planet.
“To be training with them is like training with the gods of track and field. Every day is a different lesson and a new learning process.”
Weir earned his first global medal at the 2012 London Olympics. He bagged bronze in the 200m in 19.84 seconds, finishing behind Bolt (19.32) and Blake (19.44) in a Jamaica/Racers sweep of the medals. With Blake injured out of the World Championships in Moscow, last year, Weir stepped up to silver. Only Bolt beat him to the line.
The next step for Weir is the top of the rostrum. With Bolt and Blake among his contemporaries, it’s a tough ask. But Weir is not shrinking from the challenge.
“It’s really important. Nobody wants to remain the same place on the podium, unless they have the gold medal already. For me, I have a silver and a bronze, and I’m working really hard to get the gold. That’s my ultimate goal in life, to get an individual gold medal at an Olympics or a World Championship.”
As evidenced by the tattoo on his right shoulder--featuring the Olympic rings and the national bird of Jamaica, the Red-billed Streamertail—Weir treasures his London Games experience.
“Anybody can put on a tattoo, but when you put on an Olympic tattoo it shows you’re an Olympian.”
But though he medalled on his Olympic debut, Weir had something to prove in Moscow.
“I came there (Olympics) as a newbie. People said I was a fluke, it was beginners’ luck. But to come at the World Championships and run 19.79 for a silver medal, equalling my PR (personal record), showed it wasn’t a fluke. And there was a lot in the tank. I definitely got a lot of respect from the worldwide public and the local fans.”
But though he has twice captured individual precious metal on the world stage, Weir is down to earth. His car is being washed while he has lunch with the media and a couple boyhood friends.
“They are very good friends over the years, they are like my brothers. Having my friends around me keeps me grounded. They stay true to me and help to motivate me, and if I am slipping they will tell me I’m slipping. It’s really good to have your friends around you. It shows you’re not turning your back on where you’re coming from.
“Popularity,” Weir continues, “hasn’t changed me much. I’m pretty much the same person, do the same things, go the same places. I’m just more responsible with what I do because kids are looking to me as a role model.”
And a fine role model he is--reaching for the stars, but at the same time, keeping his feet firmly planted on the track.
SPORTS EDITOR’S NOTE: Trinidad Express writer Kwame Laurence is among a select group of sports journalists chosen to be part of the latest IAAF Day in the Life series, a project featuring some of the Caribbean’s best athletes as well as other major players in the sport of track and field.
* Next Friday, Hail the King.