Peacock aims to be 'best version of himself' in Paris

Jonnie Peacock
Jonnie Peacock was a guest judge on the BBC's Great British Menu earlier this year, which had a Summer Olympics theme [BBC]

Double Paralympics gold medallist Jonnie Peacock is confident of once again putting the best version of himself on the start line at this summer's Games in Paris.

Peacock had to settle for T64 100m bronze at the Tokyo Paralympics three years ago - and admits he has not been at the level which brought him previous success in London and Rio de Janeiro for some time.

"For the first year in about seven, I'm really happy with how training has gone so far. If it keeps progressing like this, by Paris we'll be in a really good place," the 31-year-old told BBC Look East.

"Obviously being a previous Paralympic champion, you don't really want a second place. All I can do is control myself, I can't control other people, so try and run fast as possible when it comes to Paris (is the goal). Simple."

Wind back the clock to 2012, and after bursting onto the international scene with a world-record run of 10.85 secs, Peacock won his first Paralympics gold at London 2012 in the T44 100m with a time of 10.90.

It was just the start of a golden decade that brought him two World and two European titles, and a second Olympic T44 gold in Brazil, where he clocked 10.81.

The downturn in form since his second World title, again in London in 2017, means that although gold in Paris is the target, it is a "secondary focus" for Peacock.

"The (main) focus is just going out there and give a real representation of who I am and where I'm at because that's something I don't believe I have done for a good few years," he said.

Jonnie Peacock
Jonnie Peacock finished fifth in the T64 100m final at last year's World Championships [Getty Images]

Untangling bad habits

The Tokyo Paralympics, in particular, was a frustrating experience for the Cambridgeshire athlete.

"We had complications with my blade set-up. It took me a while to identify the exact problem. We eventually did but it took a while to fix," he recalled.

A year out from the Paralympics, which begin on 28 August, Peacock finished fifth in the World Championships in the French capital which prompted him to spend time trying to freshen up his mental outlook on the sport, not just the physical aspects.

He said: "I pictured myself like a pile of headphones that are thrown into a drawer and completely forgotten about for a year, you get them out and they're all tangled up.

"I've been trying to untangle all these bad habits I've made over the last few years and it's taken a while but we're there now and in a place that I haven't been for a very long time."

As well as preparing for Paris, Peacock is promoting the Tackle Meningitis campaign having contracted the illness at the age of five.

"Everyone knows I am a survivor of meningitis, that's the reason I am a Paralympian, that's the reason I had my leg amputated when I was five," he said.

"I contracted it, my mum saw the signs, she knew the rash and as soon as that appeared I was rushed to hospital and put into a coma.

"It's a disease that can be devastating. There's two ways to look at me - you can say I'm one of the unlucky ones in three that has long-term effects because of meningitis, I'm an amputee, or you could say I'm one of the lucky people that managed to survive it. Not everyone is so lucky."

'Control the monkey'

Peacock admits that regaining his place on top of the Paralympics podium will undoubtedly be a "tough task".

"It's not just going to be me, there's going to be six or seven people running quite quick come the Games, I've just got to be the quickest one," he added.

"My body has had so much more in it than I've been able to show on the track and this year feels like the first time my body is giving me something back. I'll be happy if I can leave Paris knowing I've run a solid race, a clean race, I've executed well and I've given good power.

"I think that'll be enough (to win) but all I can control is my execution.

"I'm a human being and in a high pressure, high stress situation, the brain does crazy things so it's my job to control the monkey going wild in my head."