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peacock ready for rio challenge 

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31 August 2016 

Defending Paralympic champion Jonnie Peacock (coach: Dan Pfaff) heads to his second Paralympic Games with an ambition to retain his title from London four years ago, a task the 23 year old isn’t taking lightly.

Peacock entered London’s memorable Paralympic Games in 2012 as a 19 year old in pursuit of his first senior accolade, a feat he achieved in the boldest and most memorable of fashions as he won gold in a record Games time.

In continued preparations to the forthcoming Games in Rio, Peacock returned to the scene of his finest competitive hour back in July as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park played host to the IPC Grand Prix final on a scorching Saturday in London.

“It was so amazing to be back there – you can’t help but be reminded of the amazing memories of London four years ago and how great those Games were. When you get an opportunity to go and run for the crowd there, and they give you a cheer like they do, it’s really like nothing else.”

The stadium rose to cheer on Peacock as he went head to head with fellow Paralympic gold prospect Jarryd Wallace over 100m, a race in which he was pipped to first place by his American rival.

Although far from a disastrous outcome, the result left Peacock with a slight feeling of deflation given the anticipation of his appearance by the expectant home crowd, particularly as a lifetime best of 10.68 had come in Bedford just a week prior to the Grand Prix.

“Every time you hear that roar from a British crowd you just want to make your country proud – I was actually apologetic after the race because I wanted to win for them, but hopefully next time.

“The frustration for me on the day was the winning time being 10.80 - I’ve run that on numerous occasions before and I know I can run faster than that, but it’s always about execution in races, Jarryd executed better than me on the day and I have to make sure that doesn’t happen again in Rio.”

Much was made of Peacock’s love-affair with the home crowd in London four years ago – the way the then 19 year old asked for quiet after repeated disturbances to the start of the 100m final spoke volumes of his confidence and character, with successes on the world and European stage swiftly following his Paralympic glory in the years to follow.

Such victories have undoubtedly raised Peacock’s profile in the sport, as well as the expectancy for him to retain his finest accolade in September, although he admits there is a slight difference in feeling heading into his first Games overseas.

“It definitely seems a little different this time around, although there are similarities to 2012; right now I’ve got the world’s fastest time, which was the case four years ago too, but this year I feel that there’s more pressure on my shoulders.

“Personally, looking back at London, I felt that I was the clear favourite. This time around I don’t think that’s the case. Jarryd has run the most consistently fast times this year, whereas I’ve had the odd race where I’ve done alright and touched upon the type of times I’d like to be seeing.”

Although a Paralympic Games record holder over 100m, Peacock is now playing catch-up to the speed of the T43/44 class, with last year’s world championships in Doha, a competition missed by Peacock due to injury, seeing the USA’s Richard Browne set blistering world record times over 100m (10.61) and 200 (21.27) respectively.

“The way the class has come on in the last four years is frightening, 10.90 won me gold four years ago but I imagine it’ll be a much quicker winning time this time around.

“After my run in London I spoke to my mum and she said ‘you can’t be unhappy with 10.87’, but from a personal perspective it was pretty shocking. I made a couple of really big mistakes on the day. I ran 10.68 a week previous in Bedford with what I thought was a fairly good execution, so I know that when I get it right I can run faster.”

Now something of a long-term track rival to Peacock, world champion and world record holder Browne has been something of a hot topic within the sport of late having announced his retirement last month at the age of 25, much to the bewilderment and disappointment of many due to its unexpected nature.

Peacock’s rivalry with the American is one that has received much publicity since the pair first went head to head in a major championships’ in London back in 2012, with Browne particularly vocal about his rivalry with the Briton. In an interview last year with the BBC, Browne also boldly revealed his intention to push the boundaries of para-sport by clocking 10.1/10.2 over 100m – a claim played down somewhat by Peacock last year when asked of his thoughts.

Regardless of a lack of bond between the pair, it’s clear that Peacock wishes to face off against the American once again in the near future, with the prospect of his return to the track not ruled out whatsoever, particularly with the World ParaAthletics Championships heading to London next year.

“Part of me wasn’t going to be surprised if I saw his name of the US Paralympic Team, you just don’t know what you’re going to get with Richard Browne. It could be a part of his story, but the true story, only he knows.

“It’ll be frustrating if Richard Browne decides, at his best, that he’s not actually going to try and truly test himself against the best in the world - that he’s just going to try and take a few easy races and walk away. He’s a great athlete, one of the best in the world, and I want him to be at the major competitions and competing, because ultimately I want to race against him. Only time will tell though, if he’s there next year at the world championships then so be it.”

In speaking on the subject of Browne, Peacock is quick to remind the world of Paralympics that Browne isn’t the lone elite performer of the T44 class, with added praise heaped onto the previously mentioned Jarryd Wallace (USA), a two-time Parapan American champion and current world leader.

“What people don’t realise is that everyone else has moved on over the past couple of years too, Richard Browne has definitely posted some great times, but people are catching him up now – Jarryd and I are running times that he’s been running. I think, personally, if you put him in in that 100m race then it won’t be as clear as it was in years before; he’s got a lot more competition.

“Jarryd is a great guy and a fantastic competitor, he’s consistently getting better and he’s just proved, for me anyway, that he’s the one beat this year – if you want to win you have to get past him.”

Now on the final stages of preparation somewhat, Peacock is eager to look past the prowess of his competitors and focus on what he does best come race-day in Rio – running medal winning times.

“Sometimes I feel I focus too much on racing someone as opposed to thinking about myself, which is what I felt really messed it up for me in London (IPC Grand Prix Final).

“In saying that, I’m glad I made the mistake in London and not in Rio, I always learn more from a loss than a win so I can take plenty from the race that day to make sure it doesn’t happen again in Rio.

“Of course the Paralympics is a huge stage, but it really comes down to basics – there’s a start line, two lines either side of me, and a finish line; I’ve just got to focus on putting in my best possible performance in each round to get the job done.”

Peacock will compete in the T44 100m at the Paralympic Games, with the final taking place on Friday 9 September.

The full ParalympicsGB team for Rio (7-18 September) can be found HERE.

You can follow Jonnie’s journey via @JonniePeacock