The Paralympic T44 100m champion will be without family to minimise distractions as he aims to retain his title in Brazil
When Jonnie Peacock touches down in Belo Horizonte for the ParalympicsGB holding camp he’ll be encased in his own bubble. No distractions more for the 23-year-old superstar of British sprinting.
It’s taken a little longer than he’d have liked after three years of what Peacock considers stagnation in his own progress, but the Loughborough-based athlete has breezed back into form this year, finally marrying his championship-winning pedigree earned over the past Paralympic cycle with some blisteringly fast times to top the world rankings.
Four years ago, sitting front row centre to watch Peacock write his name into British sporting folklore in one of the most awe-inspiring atmospheres the London Olympic Stadium – or any stadium for that matter – as he flew to Paralympic gold in a stacked field including Oscar Pistorius and Brazil’s Alan Oliveira was his number one fan: his mother Linda.
This time round things promise to be different. Peacock, a world, European and Paralympic champion over the 100m with a personal best set this year of 10.68, heads to Rio to defend his crown without his family beside him.
“I don’t feel completely happy that people would be safe,” Peacock says, referring to the safety issues in Rio which dogged much of the build-up to the Olympics, and remained prevalent throughout the Games. “They’d also have to spend a lot of money. The support doesn’t come cheap.
“I didn’t want to be out there in the village worrying if my mum is okay or my girlfriend is okay. It’s the safest and most logical thing to do to stay at home, watch it on TV and I’ll ring them afterwards.”
Safety issues are just some of a number of flashpoints which have materialised over the course of the past few weeks. The drama engulfing the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the announcement of major funding cuts are tugging at the very fabric of the event itself and are of grave concern.
Far less worrying than the Games’ financial stability, but nevertheless an unusual situation to encounter, was the sound of booing in the Olympic Stadium from Brazilian fans towards athletes.
Peacock faces the prospect of racing the Brazilian poster boy of the Paralympics in reigning T44 200m champion Alan Oliveira. Oliveira, a 10.57 man over the 100m in his pomp, would pose one of the biggest threats to Peacock’s defence if he can rediscover his form from 2013.
He knows his status as champion and one of the primary threats to the 24-year-old’s attempt to win gold on home soil may well leave him open as a target, but Peacock is relishing the possibility of being painted as a villain when he steps on to the track.
“They’re not booing me because I’ve done something to offend them. They’re booing because I’m competing against somebody who they want to win. It’s fair enough. It’s not what you want but you’ve just got to brush it off and use it as fuel,” he added.
“It is what it is. I just need to give them something to really boo at the end of the race.”
» Jonnie Peacock is a BT Ambassador. BT is a long-time supporter of disability sport in the UK and the Founding Partner to the British Paralympic Association