Anybody who saw Warren Weir run at the Gibson Relays last weekend – two back-stretch runs in the 4x100m and a leg of the 4x400m for the Racers Track Club – will have had their appetites whetted in expectation of what could possibly come later on this year.
In the past two seasons Weir was transformed from a potential sprint hurdler into the Olympic 200-metre bronze medalist. The progression has also seen him move from under the shadow of his more celebrated counterparts Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake and blossomed into a star in his own right. At the recent Youth View Awards, Weir, who is now known as the ‘Weirwolf’, the former Calabar High athlete, won the award as Breakout Celebrity of the Year. It was testimony to how far he has come in just two seasons.
After his sprint relay heat on Saturday there was a buzz inside the national stadium as track aficionados contemplated whether or not the talented and affable young star could become the third Jamaican sprinter in recent times to breach the 19.70-second barrier. (His time in London was a fast 19.84 seconds, a personal best.) Only Bolt and Blake have accomplished that feat to date but based on what Weir has done in the past few weeks, 2013 could be the year that the sprint factory sends three men capable of 19.6-seconds to the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow.
It won’t be easy however because while ‘The Legend’ and ‘The Beast’ are far ahead of the field, Weir will have to contend with the likes of Jason Young, who defeated him in Lucerne last July, winning in an impressive 19.86 seconds. Nickel Ashmeade, the man who many expected to be the third man over the 200m in London last year, also ended last season with a personal best 19.85s and will be gunning for some form of redemption this year. Sprinters like Rasheed Dwyer, the 2011 World University Games champion, and perhaps Kemar Bailey-Cole, tipped by many as the next best thing, could join the mix and make life even harder for young Weir.
That being said, I still give Weir the slight advantage. The young man’s confidence is perhaps at an all-time high, given his ‘surprise’ medal win in London. He has tasted success and wants more. The taste of what success on track can mean for his life off it has only served to make him hungrier, I feel, and while Ashmeade might be driven by the search for redemption and the others by the promise of wealth, respect and fame, Weir is perhaps the toughest mentally.
Whenever I see Weir compete I get the sense that he is fearless. He doesn’t worry about losing, just about giving his best. At the Camperdown Classic a few weeks ago, Weir ran a 400m in which he was pitted against Blake and Edino Steele, an emerging 400-metre talent that, this season is being guided by the genius of Glen Mills. Good things are expected of him, once he can rein in his emotions and tap into his obvious talent. With 150 metres to go, Blake, who admittedly was not at his best since he started his background season a bit late, made his move, surging onto Weir’s shoulder. Steele was doing his best to hold off the charging sprinters who are blessed with superior speed. Weir responded by digging deeper into his reserves and with his face reflecting the concerted effort, held off the fast-charging Blake. The time of 46.2 was the fastest of them all on that day but even more importantly, he did cross the line first and that is what mattered. He was not caught. He did not yield.
At Gibson, Weir also produced a strong leg on the mile relay and while (according to track statistician Hubert Lawrence 46.00 as opposed to 45.9 last year), Weir, who is noticeably bigger this year, left it all on the track handing off just marginally second.
But those are the things that you see, there are those things that most of us don’t. Like the way he constantly hassles Bolt over the 300-metre runs in training. Word is he has taken a few off ’The Legend’ since last season. We will never know for sure but if my sources are correct, Weir is now the new Blake.
The characteristics displayed by this young man and the form he has shown so far this season suggest that we could see yet another outstanding performance from him in 2013. He has the speed and he has the will. Does he have what it takes to go much faster than his personal best? I have a feeling that later this year Weir will answer those questions in the affirmative. Based on the little taste we got at Gibson, Weir seems well on his way to being the latest ‘beast’ on the block.