27 January 2015"I don't like being beaten" - Jonnie is a man on a mission
Sitting by an East London canal on a sunny winter morning, Jonnie breaks into his trademark mile-wide grin as he tries to recall the exact moment he fell in love with sport.
“It’s always been there, as long as I can remember I was running around going crazy. I had loads of energy as a kid; any opportunity to take part in sport and I was there.
“I grew up with two sisters and especially my older sister used to love doing sport with me, she was a bit of a tomboy when we were little so we’d always be running around playing football.”
The 21-year-old is noticeably less comfortable when conversation moves to his staggering success on the track; Paralympic, World and European champion after less than a decade in the sport.
Jonnie is modest to a fault and quick to credit those who have helped him along the way, acknowledging that the support he’s had has been crucial to his success.
“I feel very lucky that I’ve always been looked after by smart people, I’ve never worked with a bad coach. Everyone has always looked out for me and made sure I’m moving in the right direction.”
It was at a talent identification day run by the British Paralympic Association that his potential was first spotted and he was invited to train with a group of talented youngsters to accelerate his talent.
“I thought I was ok at sport, and wanted to see how far I could go. From the day I was picked and told that I could make it, it made me want it so much more.”
That early confidence shown in his abilities led to a naivety on his part, and an assumption that making the London 2012 Paralympic Games was a foregone conclusion.
“When I learnt more about the team and how tough it is, I realised I might not make London, but maybe I’d be there for Rio. I was lucky that I worked with some fantastic coaches and kept improving enough to be in decent form for London.”
That ‘decent form’ saw Jonnie triumph in one of the most memorable moments of London 2012, winning T44 100m gold to deafening chants of ‘Jonnie, Jonnie’ from the 80,000 capacity crowd.
The victory catapulted the then 19-year-old to relative fame overnight but he is reluctant to acknowledge that he is now an inspiration to a younger generation looking up to him.
“It’s weird to think I might be seen like that, I don’t think I’ve earned that status yet, but seeing the reactions I get from some children is just fantastic.
“It’s amazing to see that you could have such a positive impact on somebody and that means a lot to me. I hope that can carry on and more people can be inspired and learn about the sport.”
The future of his sport and the Paralympic Movement is a subject close to Peacock’s heart and he describes London 2012 as having had a “monumental” impact.
“The Paralympics is in a much better place now than it was before; London evolved it to 10 times what it was. Each Paralympic Games and major championship is bigger and better than the last and we need to keep that moving, we can definitely take it forward in Rio.”
For now Jonnie is focused on improving day by day to ensure his place on the start line in Brazil and he has left his former London base to train at the Loughborough High Performance Centre. There he trains alongside some of the UK’s brightest sprinting prospects in European champions Adam Gemili and James Dasaolu and European bronze medallist Harry Aikines-Aryeetey.
“The group I’m in is fantastic, they’re all really good guys and I enjoy going to training every day. We’re all very tight knit. Being at the top of their game, it’s always good to see their sessions and how much they put in, it drives us all on further.”
Jonnie works with “very smart” coach Steve Fudge and thinks improvements in coaching is one of the reasons GB’s sprinters have been enjoying such success.
“For a long time we struggled with coaching in this country, especially in sprinting, we didn’t understand it as well as we should have and unfortunately a lot of athletes were getting injured, but now what we’re seeing is a change and lots of young coaches coming through.
“We’ve got a lot of great athletes with huge potential, and they’re being managed by coaches who know what they’re doing. It’s in a good place.”
So what next for the man who’s done it all? Simple: “I want to do it all again!
“I don’t like being beaten. I don’t want to leave this sport without knowing I’ve achieved all my capabilities, knowing that I couldn’t have gone any faster, and having no regrets.
“Most of all I want to enjoy it.”
With that, Peacock flashes another grin and departs, ready and eager to take the next step on his Road to Rio.
Jonnie Peacock is one of 1,300 athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery supported World Class Programme..