Canadian athletics official David Weicker of Qualicum Beach has been awarded the prestigious World Athletics Veteran Pin for his contributions to athletics and decades of service to the world of track and field.
Weicker received a letter from World Athletics president and Olympic gold medallist Sebastian Coe about his award, which he said was like a correspondence from an old friend.
“I had met Mr. Coe, in Monaco, once,” he said. “It was at a World Athletics panel for international photo finish judges.”
Weicker has spent 50 years in his field as an athlete, volunteer, coach and official. The Victoria native is now best known for assuming high-ranking officiating roles at various meets across the world. Still, having his work recognized by World Athletics, he said, was a surprise.
“It’s an incredible honour to win the Veteran Pin, because I don’t think many Canadians have won it in the past,” he said. “I’ve always had a burning desire for the sport, athletics and the athletes themselves.”
Weicker has worn many important hats in the world of officiating: he was a technical delegate at the Canadian Track and Field championship between 2006 and 2018. He was an international photo finish chief judge at several World Junior and Pan-Am finals. He was a video referee at the last two summer Olympic Games. He figures on Athletics Canada’s Wall of Honour since 2013, and was the recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012, granted to individuals who have made significant contributions to Canada.
But before receiving any of those accolades, Weicker fell in love with the sport as an athlete. He was 17 when a rival on the cross-country course beat him, and it sparked in him a desire to compete in more races.
“I went up to congratulate him, and he was very rude to me,” said Weicker. “Then someone later told me he had never lost a race in an age class competition, and then I said to myself, well I’ll beat him in an age class competition.”
A year later, Weicker beat him at the B.C. cross-country championships, and then at the Canadian championships. He finished high school as the third fastest half-miler in North America, while also occasionally competing in the 200 metres, the 3,000m steeplechase and the high jump. He was recruited by the University of Oregon, a distance running powerhouse and this got him hooked.
“The guy who picked me up at the airport was Bill Dellinger (a legendary American 5,000m runner and coach),” Weicker said. “He dropped me off at the hotel and said the guys would pick me up for a run. It was my third workout that day, so just a fairly relaxing run, but they were all sub-four-minute milers. I was quite impressed by that.”
Weicker joined the powerful Ducks and started doing morning runs with Steve Prefontaine, the late, great U.S. Olympic 5,000m runner whose reverence inspired two motion pictures.
“Those were probably the only runs I could do with him,” Weicker recalled. “In the afternoon workouts, he was just an animal on the track — he’d just punish anybody near him in those workouts.”’
Weicker won all eight races in which he competed at Oregon, and set the Canadian junior 800m record (one officially, one not) twice in one week. But his competitive running career ended more abruptly than it started. On a warmup run before the 1978 B.C. championships, Weicker twisted his ankle and tore collateral ligaments.
“That’s essentially what killed my running career,” he said. “But I wasn’t done with the sport.”
Unable to run and still passionate for track and field, he volunteered as an official in local meets. By 1980, around his 30th birthday, he became certified. Since then, Weicker has assumed increasingly important roles around the track. He particularly liked being an international technical official and track referee at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and then in 2021 in Tokyo “because you’re closest to the athletes, and that’s the position that makes all the decisions.”
“It’s a favourite role of mine but also not a favourite because you get to watch everything, but your approach is you watch for athletes doing something wrong, like stepping out a lane… it makes it very difficult because you have to have a negative mindset when you’re watching things as a video referee,” said Weicker.
When he reflects on his favourite memories from his years in the sport, two come to mind.
“One of them is winning the steeplechase in Montreal on the Olympic Stadium before the Olympics happened (in 1976),” he said. “As a result I ended up having the Olympic Stadium record for two weeks. It’s a bit of a joke because I held the B.C. record for a couple years, but I held the Olympic Stadium record for a couple of weeks… until the first heat at the Olympics.”
His other favourite memory comes from the 2014 World Junior Championship in Oregon, where he was slated to be an international technical official, but then got asked to adjudicate race walking as well, and fill in for a fellow official who had encountered travel visa issues.
“I ended up giving a red card to the guy who won the event because of loss of contact,” said Weicker. “Everybody thought ‘what was he seeing’, then the local paper showed the next day the guy off the ground by three or four inches. So I felt vindicated because that was what I saw.”
The thrill of calling a competition, just like the thrill of racing, does not fade for Weicker. In March he will be the international photo finish judge at the 2022 World Indoor Championships in Belgrade. Still now, he feels he is nowhere near done with the sport.
“Meeting other officials, learning from them, passing on little pieces of wisdom I’ve gained… that camaraderie, that doesn’t get old,” he said.
— NEWS Staff, Athletics Canada