Great Rivalries: Marcel Hug vs David Weir, your daily dose from DOHA, 2015 IPC Athletics World Champs, by Stuart Weir


22311341648_a0996bc8aa_o.jpgMarcel Hug, photo by IPC

Stuart Weir reminds us how rivalries excite the fans. Expected rivalries and surprised new challengers for the throne are what make a sport riveting.

Sport loves a good rivalry - think Coe and Ovett in the 1980s, think Christian Taylor and Pablo Pichardo this year. I bet five more examples come into your mind instantly.

I decided to write about the T54 rivalry between Marcel Hug of Switzerland and David Weir of Great Britain. Everyone knows that they are going to dominate the T54 Wheelchair racing in Doha - well everyone except Rawat Tana of Thailand.

David Weir is 36. He has won six Paralympic gold medals, two silvers and a bronze. In London 2012 he won four golds. Rio will be his fifth Paralympics. He has also taken six gold and three silvers at the IPC World Championships. He has won six London Marathons.

Marcel Hug of Switzerland is 28. He has yet to win a Paralympic gold but has two silvers and two bronze as well as seven golds and nine silvers in World Championships. He has won the London, New York, Boston and Berlin marathons.

Hug said of Weir: "For several years I have had a great - and hard -rivalry with David. It is always exciting to race him because I know we will be going head to head". He added: "But this week has shown that there are other great athletes and that we cannot just focus on each other. I was not surprised by the result because I knew that Rawat was strong and that he would come to the World Championship in top condition".

22510112271_f1a22018e9_o.jpgRawat Tana wins 5000 meters, photo from IPC

This week, Rawat Tana has won the 1,500 and the 5,000 metres. At 38, you could hardly call him the new kid on the block but before this week his only major medals had been two silvers at the 2013 World Championship. I would love to tell you all about his but - as the stadium interviewer found out in a rather embarrassing moment, he does not speak English. And to be fair I don't speak a lot of Thai. The stadium interview, on the big screen, went something like this.

Interviewer: You must be really pleased to win your second gold medal.

Tana: Yes

Interviewer: I know you don't speak much English but can you just sum up for us how you are feeling, having won the gold medal.

Tana: Happy.

Interviewer: So is there anything else you would like to share with us following your victory?

Tana: Thank you

The IPC webside continued the in-depth analysis, getting the following gem from him: "I am very happy to have won gold in 1500 and 5000m in Doha."

Hug's verdict was: "I feel exhausted, the competition was very tough, but of course I am happy with the second place. I enjoy the competition and everything has been going very well here. I have one more race then I will be focusing on Rio."

Weir. who is heading for the New York Marathon, said of the race: "I should have stuck to my game plan but that is what racing does to you. I just got my position wrong in the last lap. You have to be on their wheel to get the draft and then could out of the draft on the home straight. And if you are not on Rawat's wheel or Marcel's wheel, it is very difficult coming down the home straight".

He added that the level of competition has improved out of all recognition during the 20 years we have been competing: "I can't win every time. It is not like 10 years ago when there were only one or two athletes close to me. Now it is the whole field and you have to be extremely fast all the way".

So does he relish the competition? "At my age? I don't know".

A great rivalry is the essence of sport but when someone comes through the beats the two favourites, the perhaps it is time, with Berton Braley, to "stand with a smile by the side of the road, and cheer as the winners go by".

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