The only man who did not know David Weir had won his fourth gold medal of the 2012 Paralympics was David Weir.
Rumbling down The Mall at the end of the last lap of the T54 marathon, five wheelchair lengths ahead of his nearest pursuer, he lost sight of the finish line. And he had no intention of slowing down until he was certain the race was over.
"That's why I looked a bit moody," he said. "I didn't know if it was the first line or the second line and then I saw the cars stop down the end, so I thought, 'Maybe it's down there,' because there was no tape. That's why I carried on pushing, because I just didn't know. I didn't know how close they were behind me and I just had to really dig deep."
Eventually he rolled to a halt, having pushed his way to a victory that followed his gold medals in the 800m, 1500m and 5,000m. All those sessions a few miles away in Richmond Park, all those three-minute one-mile sprints at an average of 20mph in order to rehearse a long sprint finish, had finally paid off.
This was bliss, a sun-dappled lunchtime starring the last British hero of the greatest festival of sport ever staged in this country.
The 33-year-old Weir is a hard nut from a south London housing estate, with two older brothers who were talented amateur boxers. He was born with a severed spinal cord and discovered his talent for racing at the age of nine or 10, when two businessmen donated a racing wheelchair to his school, an establishment for disabled children in Kingston upon Thames.
On Sunday he had to resist the combined efforts of a bunch of rivals determined to deny him a final victory under a burning late-summer sun on multiple laps of a course that started in front of Buckingham Palace and wound its way around Trafalgar Square, along the Strand, through the City and back down the Embankment and through Parliament Square to St James's Park.
He finished in 1hr 30min 20sec, ahead of Marcel Hug of Switzerland and Kurt Fearnley of Australia, the defending champion. The pair had worked together in an attempt to break Weir but could make no impression in the closing stages.
"For the first five miles I was absolutely dying," the winner said. "I didn't think I was going to manage to cope, with the heat and everything. I had to take another energy shot that I had with me, just to keep going. That was meant for about 16 miles, not the first five miles, but I'm glad I took it. That was the toughest race of my life.
"They were working together to try to stop me but I'm used to that. I do my own thing and race as best I can. They did a lot of work on the front but I was going to do my work when I felt I was ready."
Peter Eriksson, the 59-year-old Swedish former speed skater who is head coach of Britain's Paralympic athletes, called Weir "the most talented racer I have ever seen. You can see it on the track with the speed and acceleration but now he's showing the best endurance, too. How much better can it be?"
A few minutes after the finish of the men's marathon, on the same stretch of road, Shelly Woods won Britain's last medal with a silver in the women's T54 race, behind Shirley Reilly of the United States. After a difficult time in her two track events, the 26-year-old from Lytham St Anne's had tried to make a break but settled back and waited for the final bunch sprint.
"Twenty-six miles is a long way but sprinting after 26 miles – oh, man, it hurts," she said. "I've got blisters but it's 100% worth it. I feel a bit like Rocky. I've had such a tough time on the track – I kept getting bashed down and I kept jumping up for more. Today I jumped up for more."
Weir and Woods both enjoyed the support of yet another vast crowd. Heinz Frei, the 54-year-old Swiss who finished 11th in the men's race, has competed in every Paralympics since 1984 and has 14 gold medals from summer and winter Games. The winner of the London wheelchair marathon on three occasions, he had never seen anything like it.
"I think it was the best ever Paralympic marathon – the conditions, the organisation, the spectators especially," he said. "Never I saw a marathon for us with so many spectators.
"It looked like more than the ordinary London marathon."
Under the shade of the horse chestnut trees lining The Mall Eriksson was taking the measure of the team's success. "Our goal was five to eight gold medals, and 23 to 28 overall, and to finish in the top 10 nations," the head coach said. "We've got 11 golds and 29 medals and we're third in the nations."
The key to the team's success, he said, was the integration of the Paralympic and Olympic coaching programmes: "Same training camps, same support. Then we raised the athletes' expectation, so it's no longer a rewards programme. It's an investment in medals" – with dividends on view in Monday's victory parade through London, the curtain call to end them all.
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