David Weir admitted the prospect of never pulling on a British vest again - and next year’s Paralympic Games - has made him hungrier than ever.

Weir, who turns 40 this summer, made his Paralympic debut as 17-year old in 1996 and won six golds, two silvers and two bronzes in subsequent appearances in Athens, Beijing and London.

He just missed out on the podium in Rio - with a fifth, fourth and sixth on the track, while he did not finish the marathon after a collision early in the race.

Weir quit the track on his return from Brazil and had planned for his final race to be following year’s London Marathon.

But the lure of a fifth Paralympic appearance has ultimately proved too strong - with the marathon in Tokyo now his firm target.

“The Paralympics is the next big aim for me - hopefully I’ll be selected for the marathon,” he said.

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The hunger is still there and I think focussing on one event really helps me.

David Weir

“I was asked a question at last year’s London Marathon about whether I’d ever represent Great Britain again and I said ‘no’.

“But saying that actually made me really think about things and how much I’d miss pulling on that British vest. I don’t miss racing on the track, the guys are going too quick for me now and the training is just gruelling. I find marathon training a lot better physically and mentally.

“The hunger is still there and I think focussing on one event really helps me.”

Weir won his eighth London Marathon title 12 months ago and lines up in the race for the 20th time this Sunday.

His preparation has not been smooth, illness and infection forcing him out of recent races in Boston and Tokyo.

But despite these frustrations, he insists the streets of home always lift the spirits.

“London is the best wheelchair race in the world, I’ll never get bored of winning here,” he added.

“The best people are here, the prize money is good and we are looked after like professional athletes.

“I’m a local boy and watching this race as a youngster, it was the first time I saw disabled people on television, that makes it extra special.”

Rising American star Daniel Romanchuk, who won this month’s Boston Marathon, and Swiss arch-rival Marcel Hug, a two-time London winner and Paralympic champion, will be Weir’s chief rivals this weekend.

Weir has six Paralympic golds, including four from London 2012

And he received extra inspiration after his Weir Archer Academy received a £20,000 donation from Abbott World Marathon Majors in recognition of his landmark race.

“I had this dream at the 2008 Paralympics that wanted to help the next generation of wheelchair racers,” he said.

“After 2012 I wanted to start up the academy with my coach and I’ve loved the experience, working with all the racers. It’s very hard and you have to fight for money and that donation will help us so much.”

London doubles up as this year’s World Para Athletics Marathon Championship, with three different medal events, matching the events set to take place at next year’s Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

Weir will be joined in the T54 by training partner Johnboy Smith, who won Commonwealth silver last year, and Simon Lawson, the bronze medallist on the Gold Coast.

Derek Rae, a World Cup winner last year, competes in the T46 classification for athletes with an arm impairment. The Scottish athlete – who has just returned from a warm weather training camp in Kenya – will be seeking another successful race around the streets of London, the location of his career best time of 2:33:24.

Meanwhile, Charlotte Ellis makes her debut for a British Athletics team in the visual impairment class. With a best of 3:25:55 to her name, which she set at the Manchester marathon last April, she takes on the best in the world in the T12 class.

“London provides our marathon athletes with an essential opportunity to compete for world medals, and in doing so, taking on the best in the world in their classifications, which will be perfect preparation for next year’s Paralympic Games in Tokyo,” said British Athletics para athletics head coach Paula Dunn.

“We have a very strong team with consistent performers who have excelled at this event in recent years and Charlotte who will be representing the British team for the first time, so I am excited to see how they perform in London.”

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