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Paralympic great Weir explains reasons behind retirement

By Mitch Phillips

By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - Six-times Paralympic gold medalist David Weir revealed he decided to retire from international athletics after being verbally abused by national coach Jenni Banks, who accused him of not trying in a race.

Weir won four golds at the London 2012 Games and two in Beijing four years earlier but after failing to medal in Rio, the 37-year-old announced he would not compete for Britain again and earlier this month tweeted, "thanks Britain, what a joke."

Weir, who will seek a seventh title in April's London marathon but will miss the world para athletics championships in July, cut a bitter and frustrated figure on Friday.

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"It would have been nice to bail out there (world championships) but they made the decision for me to be honest," he told reporters at the media launch for the marathon.

"I just felt that if Jenni Banks was still in the job it wouldn’t be fair on the other team members if there was an atmosphere around."

Weir voiced his frustration when Australian Banks was appointed in 2013 ahead of his own coach Jenny Archer but said he had a cordial working relationship with her until Rio.

"A lot of things went on in Rio (last September) with a certain member of the coaching staff who was a bit abusive to me," he said.

Weir said that Banks accused him of not trying, called him a "disgrace to your country" and that he sabotaged his team's chances after a below-par showing in the relay event.

"To be accused of not putting 100 percent in during a race made me feel like shit to be honest," he said. "I would never throw a race - it's not in my make-up.

"I just lost respect for her as a national coach. There were certain things I asked for training... she said some of the tracks weren’t open so I trained on rollers but then found out that some of the international guys had gone to the track.

"I don’t ask for much, I just want to go and train. We spend a lot of time helping the younger athletes but Jenni Banks wasn’t doing her job properly."

British Athletics responded to Weir's comments with a statement saying: "We can confirm there was a frank exchange of views between an athlete and the relay coach following the race when the GB men’s wheelchair team failed to qualify for the final.

"We can also confirm that we have met with David Weir to receive first hand his feedback on his experiences in Rio, and that we are working to ensure we learn from these experiences ahead of future team events."

With his international career over, Weir is focusing on what will be his 17th successive London marathon, seeking to add to the last of his titles won in 2012.

"It’s the race that I love get up for every year," said the Londoner.

"It's been in my blood since I was eight years old. It was the first race I saw on TV and it's the first race I wanted to win."

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)