25 January 2016Jonnie Peacock: Big race mentality will defeat rivals in Rio in defence of 100m sprint crown
When Jonnie Peacock sprinted to victory in the T44 100m final at the London 2012 Paralympics, he became the poster boy of the Games.
Peacock, who had his right leg amputated at the age of five after contracting meningitis, was just 19. He had risen, it seemed, from nowhere to triumph in the sprint for single-leg, below-the-knee amputees that is one of the blue-riband events of the Paralympics.
However, the world record he set in London has since been lowered four times, evidence that there is no shortage of pretenders to the crown he will defend in Rio de Janeiro in September.
“It’s going to be massive; a huge year for the Paralympic movement, and hopefully it’s going to be a great 2016 on a personal level,” Peacock told The Telegraph.
“Rio will be different to London but I’m sure it will still be amazing. It will be intriguing to see how it plays out in front of the passionate Brazilian audience.”
The past four years have ones of great progression for both Peacock and the event, although the Briton suffered a setback last year when he was forced to pull out of the IPC World Championships in Doha in October because of a leg injury.
“I’ve learnt a lot about my body in the past three years,” Peacock says. “We made that tough decision [not to defend my world title] because I wanted to be in the best possible condition for Rio.
Peacock believes he has learnt from experience since winning in London. “I’d been training for three or four years before that, but for only one of those was I a full-time, serious athlete. But I’ve built on that and my knowledge of training and sprinting has come a long way. I know a lot more about myself and what works and what doesn’t.”
In Paralympic terms, the rivalry in the T44/T43 100m (T44 is the classifcation for single-leg amputees and T43 doubles – and the two race together) is second to none.
“People do pop out of nowhere, especially at the Paralympics,” Peacock says. “I did. I went from 11.4sec to 10.8sec in one season. I’ve got to be ready for other people to achieve the same.
“The Americans, Richard Browne and Jarryd Wallace, will be in the mix. As will Brazil’s Alan Oliveira, who’s the dark horse in the event. If he gets himself in shape in time he’s going to be there or thereabouts. We’ll probably be looking at five guys by the time the race comes around.”
But Peacock believes he has the mindset to see off his rivals. “It’s about who can do it on the big stage, on the day. I’ve done it before. I know how to handle the pressure.”
Jonnie Peacock is an ambassador for BT, founding partner of the British Paralympic Association