28 August 2012Paralympics: Jonnie Peacock
Usain Bolt’s reign as the 100m king may have been under threat going into the London Olympics, but defending 100m Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius must feel he needs to call on the army for help protecting his sprint gold. The man chasing Pistorius down is no Jamaican Beast, though. Jonnie Peacock is a 19-year-old sprinter from Cambridge who lost his right leg at the age of five, after contracting meningococcal septicaemia (whereby toxins are released into the blood and break down the walls of blood vessels).
He’s also the current 100m world record holder in amputee sprinting, his 10.85s run at the US trials in June (where he was an invited guest) slicing 0.06s off the previous record held by USA’s 2004 Paralympic champ, Marlon Shirley. But just four years ago, Peacock admits he didn‘t even realise there was a race “just for people like me”. And if it hadn’t been for a well-timed visit to his prosthetist (the woman tasked with making his prosthetic leg), who told him about a Talent ID day being run by the British Paralympic Association (BPA), he might never have done so. "My dad said I couldn’t go because it was a school day,” Peacock reveals with a wry smile. “But I asked my mum and she said ‘definitely’. She and my stepdad took the day off work to drive me to London. So if it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I’d be here today.”
Here, being the mostly deserted gym at Lee Valley, a high-performance training centre used by UK Athletics where Peacock has been toiling under the tutelage of world-renowned athletics coach Dan Pfaff since last November. With most of the centre’s regulars holed up in the Olympic village when we meet, Peacock has been relying on the radio to keep him “pumped up” for his sessions – the only plus side to the loneliness being he has the equipment all to himself. But it’s not for long. Soon, he’ll be roared on by a crowd of thousands eager to see more of the golden moments that lit up the Olympic Stadium just a few weeks ago. And as the fastest man on the track, Peacock will be among the favourites to deliver…