Weir: Flora light on prize money parity

Full steam ahead: David Weir puts in the hard yards in training at Kingsmeadow Stadium. Deadlinepix Frantzesco Kangaris KT10668

Full steam ahead: David Weir puts in the hard yards in training at Kingsmeadow Stadium. Deadlinepix Frantzesco Kangaris KT10668

First published in Local Sports Round-up Sutton Guardian: Photograph of the Author by

Wheelchair athletics star David Weir has slammed organisers of the Flora London Marathon for treating disabled athletes like second-class citizens.

The 28-year-old member of Kingston-based Velocity Wheelchair Racing Club, has urged the powers that be to raise the prize money on offer in line with their able-bodied counterparts.

The 2007 men's champion will pocket $55,000 (£27,770), while Weir trousered just £1,500 when he won the wheelchair event this year.

And Weir, who bagged three world championship gold medals this summer, thinks it is time things were evened up in the interest of improved competition.

"Organisers have claimed the difference is because there isn't enough competition but, if they put the prize money up, that would change," he said.

"The lack of money is the reason why the big-name racers, who are mainly based abroad, don't come and compete.

"The public are starting to accept wheelchair athletes as athletes in their own right. The attitude has totally changed from 10 years ago.

"But, in terms of the prize money, we are still second-class citizens."

Weir narrowly missed out on being shortlisted for the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year - to be awarded at an all-star ceremony in Birmingham on Sunday - despite a season of unrivalled success.

It started with the London Marathon triumph in April and peaked in September when he won gold over 100m, 200m and 800m at the world titles in Holland.

His efforts, which inclided two world records, saw him handed the coveted Norwich Union Athletics Writers' award for the best performance in a British vest.

The gruelling schedule of 15 races - he also won silver in the 200m - on route to glory bears testament to changes in a punishing training programme and a new custom-built race chair worth £3,500.

Weir's continued run of success could yet see him follow in the footsteps of the sports most celebrated athlete, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, with talk of retirement a distant thought after such a triumphant year.

Weir has now turned his attention to qualifying for the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing and then preparing himself for a tilt at the 2012 Games on his home turf.

"I'm not sure how long I will go on for, but it would be nice to still be racing when the Games are held here," said Weir, who jets off to Australia for pre-season training and competition in January.

"What is nice about this sport is that it is so competitive.

"You can win one week and lose the next, and that is what spurs you on.

"Getting to the top is tough but the hardest part is staying there.

"If I can help put disabled athletics on the map along the way, that is what I want to do."

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