Sports Personality of the Year: Why David Weir should win
Each of the 12 Sports Personality of the Year contenders has an advocate explaining why they should win. Here, BBC Sport talks to four-time Paralympian Dan Greaves about his friend, David Weir .
David Weir, multiple Paralympic champion, dominant for years at the London Marathon, had one very clear thought going into his home Games: "I believed it would be impossible to get four gold medals."
It was about the only misjudgement he made all summer.
In seven races over nine days and 35.3 miles, Weir produced flawless performances across four contrasting distances to light up the track at the Olympic Stadium, exactly as Mo Farah had a few weeks before.
- Finest moment: Coming down the Mall clear of his greatest rivals to win his fourth and final gold medal of his home Paralympic Games
- Historical context: Only Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson had ever before won four athletics golds at a single Paralympics for Great Britain
- In his own words: "I'm just honoured to see that Paralympic sport has got the recognition it deserves. It's about time that we got some recognition, because we're superhumans."
From his tactically perfect triumph in the T54 5,000m to the successful defence of his 800m and 1,500m titles under the most intense pressure, the 33-year-old first set the celebratory mood and then brought it to new heights. In then winning marathon gold in front of Buckingham Palace on the final day of competition, he supplied the perfect image to bookend London's special sporting summer.
It would lead to GB Paralympic head coach Peter Eriksson hailing him as the greatest wheelchair racer of all time, an accolade indeed from the most successful Paralympic coach in history. For the kid from the Roundshaw Estate in Croydon, it was a triumph forged by years of brutal training and relentless determination.
Dan Greaves, four-time Paralympian, owner of the full gold, silver, bronze set in F44 discus, has been Weir's friend and team-mate for over a decade, and shared accommodation with him during the London Games.
"Dave is multi-talented at wheelchair racing," he says. "Because of the nature of his sport, you face the same guys in almost all events, and to face those same four day after day in big final after big final and beat all in all is phenomenal.
"London showed how mentally strong Dave is. He totally commits himself for months beforehand to get his strategy right.
"You need four times the mental strength to get through all those qualifying rounds and semis. You need to control and time your energies, working out which is your strongest event, which one you'll have to work hardest in, which one you will enjoy the most.
"He has always had a great work ethic - he'll give blood, sweat and tears in pursuit of success - but that hit new levels this year. If he thinks someone is training harder than him, he'll go out there and do another session regardless of how cold or wet it might be or how hard he has already trained. He operates on a full tank of fuel every single day."
For cyclists and runners in south-west London, the sight of Weir flogging himself on the roads and climbs of Richmond Park is a familiar one.
There is little glamour on those slick hills in the depths of winter, nothing to connect the mind with stadiums full of 80,000 cheering spectators. But it was there that the hard yards were made, the pain endured that would bear fruit as the nation watched on.
"Dave really went hard on the endurance side of training in the build-up to London," Greaves told BBC Sport.
Contenders on Twitter
* Katherine Grainger and Bradley Wiggins do not have Twitter accounts
"He knew that if he could combine the best stamina of anyone in the field with his raw strength - and he is an absolute beast - then he would be hard to beat."
In that 5,000m final, Weir seized on a mistake from dangerous Swiss racer Marcel Hug to first get on the wheels of his old Australian friend and rival Kurt Fearnley and then push past on the final bend.
Defending his title in the 1,500m, he seemed a racer at the peak of his physical and tactical powers, going to the front at the bell, taking up a position straddling lanes one and two to force his rivals wide, holding off Thailand's charging Prawat Wahoram down the finishing straight.
In the 800m final, amid the celebrations of Thriller Thursday, he produced arguably his most impressive performance of all.
Lane seven was a far from ideal draw. With 200m to go he had China's Zhang Lixin out front and Hug on his shoulder. There should have been exhaustion and horrible lactic in his shoulders, lats and arms. There probably was. But, just as Farah had, he found something in the final 50m to surge clear to victory.
Last 10 winners
- 2011: Mark Cavendish (cycling)
- 2010: Tony McCoy (horse racing)
- 2009: Ryan Giggs (football)
- 2008: Sir Chris Hoy (cycling)
- 2007: Joe Calzaghe (boxing)
- 2006: Zara Phillips (Equestrian)
- 2005: Andrew Flintoff (cricket)
- 2004: Dame Kelly Holmes (athletics)
- 2003: Jonny Wilkinson (rugby union)
- 2002: Paula Radcliffe (athletics)
"Watching him in the village during those Paralympics was amazing," says Greaves. "You'd see him racing, but what not everyone was aware of was that he would then be doing hours of media and dope-control.
"He wouldn't be back in our accommodation until 1am, and he would have his next qualifying race at 1030 the same morning.
"I spoke to him about it lots. What was key for him was winning gold in that first final. He had been very pent-up before the 5,000m, but after taking gold that equalled, in his head, what he had achieved in Beijing; it meant that everything else felt like a bonus, so he was able to relax and enjoy all the subsequent big battles.
"He is a charismatic guy. He's the ultimate gent - an animal on the track but a nice guy with it, and he figured out that the pressure was all on his rivals. He had won one; he then won two. He knew he was the man with the power."
Even Weir feared the marathon might be 26 miles too far. After the first lap of central London, physically and mentally spent, he felt as bad as he had ever felt in a race.
Hug and Fearnley were again all over him. One final time, Weir found the strength to hold them off.
"The way the public took to the Paralympics made it work, and that triggered great performances," says Greaves. "Dave made a huge contribution to that.
"As the days went by it became, can he win the next one? Can he win this one? The marathon was the perfect finale to it all.
Weir's extraordinary haul helped take Team GB to third place in the medal table, as unprecedented a performance as their compatriots had achieved in the Olympics.
His selection as flag carrier at the closing ceremony was one fitting summary. So were his own almost awestruck words as the fireworks sounded: "I did it, and I did it in the best town in the world, in front of the greatest crowd at the greatest Paralympics ever."