David Weir is “fed up with being second best” and challenged Sebastian Coe to fight for the future of para-athletics.
The three biggest UK stars of the track – Weir, Jonnie Peacock and Hannah Cockroft – have repeatedly raised concerns of pay inequality, poor promotion and lack of technological investment in Tokyo.
After finishing fifth in the Paralympic marathon, the Weirwolf has let the precarious state of his sport slip away and now wants World Athletics, of which Coe is president, to step in.
Along with swimming, para-athletics is reluctantly governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), which in July openly urged interest in getting rid of it.
âWe’re sick of being second and we deserve more,â said Weir, six-time Paralympic champion, 42. âThat’s what I’m going to fight for now, I’m going to keep pushing and knocking on the door.
“UK Sport doesn’t talk to the athletes, they need to talk to us more and when we come back they will listen.
âI want to see us in the Diamond League. I want Seb Coe to sit down with the top Paralympians because the IPC isn’t doing enough to promote us.
âThe prize money is not equal but we fight, we tell them. We’re 26.2 miles, you wouldn’t pay differently for men and women – so why not us?
âA lot of the public thinks we’re getting the same money as Mo Farah and the top athletes. I just want it for the next generation – we don’t get offers from Nike or the big companies. It is our income.
The issues are systemic and intertwined, with Peacock targeting the Diamond League’s price inequality having received Â£ 500 in events where Olympians were paid up to Â£ 30,000.
Cockroft created a storm by revealing that although they received bonus medals in London and Rio, para-athletes did not receive a dime for podium spots in Tokyo.
It came after the U.S. team announced the Paralympians and Olympians would both get the same Â£ 25,600 gold handshake.
Weir’s biggest gripe is the lack of British investment in racing chairs dating back a decade and he saw Swiss athlete Marcel Hug rushing to a gold medal in the marathon in a chair at the forefront of technology.
While Hug has been testing and fine-tuning his ship for the past five years, Weir only received his chair five months before winning gold at London 2012 and things haven’t improved for the past nine years.
âAs you can see, the technology is improving and we need help if you want to see the next generation go by,â Weir said.
âI have my academy, but there’s not much we can do. You have to start from the ground up and build and build from there.
âAs you can see, I’m probably never going to win a medal again. We have to see the next generation arrive. “
Weir, Peacock and Cockroft have clearly lost faith in official channels and are now aiming to leverage their media profile to raise ongoing issues.
All three were stars of London 2012 and while the young athletes bear witness to the legacy of the Games at home, the sport’s alumni have had enough.
âI got messages saying ‘you’ve heard’ which is a start,â Weir said. âSomeone asked on BBC Breakfast the other morning about investing in wheelchair racing.
âI hope people are listening because they have been fighting for five years. I have been talking to them for five years, there was no interest at that time. I’m just praying for the next generation. We need a little help.
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