19 April 2013Jonnie Peacock: keeping the Paralympic dream alive
Teenager Jonnie Peacock is the world’s fastest amputee runner. Few will forget the electric atmosphere when the 19-year-old burst over the line in London last year to earn gold in the T44 100m as well as a Paralympic Games record of 10.9 seconds.
The roar as Peacock crossed the line became one of the iconic moments of the Games, sending 80,000 spectators in the Olympic stadium into a frenzy, while the race drew an audience of 6.3 million on Channel 4.
His athletic endeavour became all the more extraordinary as the facts of his early life in Cambridgeshire unfolded: he lost his right leg – amputated by surgeons at the age of five – after he had contracted meningitis. So serious was the condition, it came close to killing him, with doctors having put him into an induced coma.
But on that evening of the 2012 Games in London, a new Paralympic star was born.
Seven months on from London – and never one to rest on his laurels – Peacock has already started training for the new season at a warm-weather training camp in Florida.
He has revealed that there could be “a sneaky surprise” with his blade this year, that he has grown physically and that he will “do anything required” to put Paralympic sport on the world map. In the mean time, he says, it is “knuckle-down time” in the US.
The advice from head coach Dan Pfaff after the Games, he says, was “to stay grounded, stay humble” – and Peacock chuckles as he explains that his three older sisters, Hanna, Becka and Beth, “love keeping me from getting too big for my own boots; they give me plenty of stick. I definitely grew up in a strong household. There wasn’t any room to be big headed in my family,” he explains.
In spite of the new-found fame, a sense of civic duty has not been lost on him, either. Peacock, an ambassador for BT, heads up the BT/Sunday Telegraph Paralympic Momentum Programme, which will guarantee £15,000 in grants distributed between 15 disability sport clubs over the next two months.
“What they’re doing now is very important. I was involved at club level, and there were times when funds were really needed to help maintain the track, or pay heating bills, or for repairs, or renting out leisure centres.
“We need to make it bigger and better. I’m going to keep pushing for that until the day I leave the sport.”