IPC Athletics: David Weir v Marcel Hug - 'Weirwolf' v 'Silver Bullet'

By Elizabeth HudsonBBC Sport
Swiss wheelchair racer Marcel Hug aims to beat Britain's David Weir
IPC Athletics European Championships
Venue: Swansea University Dates: 18-23 August
Coverage: Commentary of key races on BBC Radio 5 live, daily reports on BBC Sport website

Wheelchair racer David Weir was one of the British heroes of the London Paralympics.

Over the course of eight days in September 2012, the 35-year-old won four gold medals in the T54 800, 1500, 5,000m and marathon events crushing his rivals and thrilling the home crowd to change his life for ever.

The exertions of the competition took their toll on Weir and he opted to take a break from competition in 2013, but in his absence at last year's World Championships, a new track star was born with his long-time rival Switzerland's Marcel Hug rising to the challenge to win five gold medals in Lyon.

But the 'Weirwolf' is back and at this week's IPC Athletics European Championships in Swansea, which start on Tuesday, he wants to show everyone, including Hug, that he is the king of the wheelchair racers as he takes on his rivals in four events - the 400, 800, 1500 and 5,000m.

A refreshed Weir was in top form at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, powering his way to gold in a typically dominant display at Hampden Park, and he comes to Swansea having never lost to Hug in a major final on the track at a World Championships or Paralympics.

Baroness Grey-Thompson, who has known Weir since he was "a skinny seven-year-old kid" believes that with both racers looking strong, the battle between the pair at Swansea will be played out not only on the track but also in the mind.

Weir v Hug race schedule
Wednesday 20 Aug: T54 400m final (15:52 BST) and 1500m final (18:00)
Thursday 21 Aug: T54 800m final (18:25 BST)
Saturday 23 Aug: T54 5,000m final (16:19 BST)

"They are both great racers and their top speeds are closer than ever but psychologically David is really strong and has the ability to mess with Marcel's head," the 11-time Paralympic gold medallist told BBC Sport.

"He does that to a lot of his rivals but it is probably Marcel who has suffered most with it. Marcel has had some great races but it is usually when David isn't there."

Earlier this year, Hug beat Weir in a sprint finish at the London Marathon as well as finishing ahead of his rival in four of their five races at the Swiss Nationals, the top opportunity for wheelchair racers outside of the World Championships and Paralympic Games.

But Grey-Thompson believes that London triumph, in an event which Weir has won six times, will be the race which gives the 28-year-old Swiss racer the most confidence coming to Swansea.

And the tactics that the field choose to employ could also have an impact on the likely winner.

"Marcel's best chance of winning is go out hard, take no prisoners and take the race to David," she adds.

"If David is able to control a race then it is job done for him because he is such a strong sprinter. He is such a strong sprinter that you can't leave it to 300m to go to make a move because he will be there as well.

"Interestingly, I've never seen the rest of the guys gang up en masse in a race against David. If you had a group of guys who would do that it could make it interesting. I think sometimes the other racers think they are settling for the silver medal.

"But if David and Marcel both watch each other there might be some surprises and someone like France's Julian Casoli could come through."

Weir, who will captain the 54-strong GB team in Wales, is pleased to be back and knows that Hug is the man to beat in their four races.

"I'm enjoying it now," he says. "I didn't miss the big races last year. I needed the break both physically and mentally.

"Swansea is going to be a massive test and I'm looking forward to battling with Marcel.

"He's my biggest rival at a world level on the track. We just seem to be a little bit ahead of the competition at the moment. It's a good rivalry and it just comes down to the day, whoever is quickest and fittest on the day."

Hug himself admits that racing in Lyon without Weir was not the same.

Wallington, LondonBasedNottwil, Switzerland
Jenny ArcherCoachPaul Odermatt
Atlanta 1996Paralympic debutAthens 2004
Six gold, two silver, two bronzeParalympic medalsTwo silver, two bronze

"The rivalry is important because we are pushing each other," he explains. "It could be an advantage that I beat him in the London Marathon but things can change and this is a new competition. It was good for my confidence but it starts again from zero."

The Weir v Hug clashes will be among the highlights in Swansea but Britain's other 2012 gold medallists Jonnie Peacock, Hannah Cockroft, Richard Whitehead, Josie Pearson, Mickey Bushell and Aled Davies will also be in action along with the likes of world champion Sophie Hahn and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Dan Greaves, plus rising star Maria Lyle, who is only 14 and making her GB debut.

"We are really pleased Dave is back in the team," said Paralympic head coach Paula Dunn, who is targeting a haul of 30 to 35 medals. "We recognised he needed a break to recharge his batteries after but he is looking fighting fit.

"We know he is a great racer and a big-time performer and he is a very strong role model and a total professional.

"We want to use this competition to blood some of the young athletes. We don't have many chances to do that on the international stage so this is a great opportunity to test them out and see how they fare."

David Weir
Weir was one of the GB heroes at the London Paralympics
Marcel Hug
Hug is world record holder in the 800, 1500, 5,000 and 10,000m events