The Incredible Story of Jonnie Peacock - Breaking Free To Win Gold

By Jude Whitbread, Legends Report Contributor

“People have been starting to focus less on the disability and more on the actual sport. I’ve had so many interviews that don’t even mention the backstory of how I became an amputee or whatever. I prefer that — I prefer being on the back pages with the rest of the sportsmen, not being just a heart-warming story.”

- Jonnie Peacock

Jonnie Peacock shows us the way to break free of society’s pigeon-holing en route to success through focusing on his human potential.

At the London 2012 Paralympics when Jonnie Peacock’s mum Linda watched him charge over the finish line of the T44 100 metres to win gold, her pride was mixed with relief. In that moment she was finally reassured that her 19-year-old son would be alright. Of course, five years on, we know that Mr Peacock is much more than alright! Since then, he has gone on to win gold at the Paralympic Games in Rio last year and also at the 2017 World Championships in London. The story behind Jonnie Peacock’s success is an inspiring one of courage and persistence.

Overcoming challenges by focusing on what he could do

It was clear from an early age that Mr Peacock possessed the strongest of wills and the most positive mindset. He’s also benefited from a fair share of luck, starting with surviving meningitis aged just five. But it was the willpower he used after losing his lower right leg to the resulting sepsis that really forged his character.

Following rehab, he wasted no time in rejoining his friends in playing outside - riding his bike or kicking a football. His school added a hopping race to their sports day at his mother’s request - she figured hugely in his fight to break free of society’s stereotypical shackles.

Getting through the tough times

As a teenager, Jonnie Peacock not only experienced excruciating physical pain, he also faced the darker side of growing up which affects thousands of children, becoming the target of bullies, but it was the support of others who had also faced tough times that gave him hope.

“I got a lot of bullying. There were lots of times when I’d come home and my leg would be really sore. A 20-minute walk would take me an hour because of how sore it was, and I’d have to stop all the time. I used to get sores on my leg. I’d get home and just break down. I used to get so upset, about 13 or 14, I’d think: ‘Why has this happened to me? What did I do to deserve this?’ People who’d also had tough times said ‘Don’t worry, you’ll come to terms with it when you’re older. You won’t care what anyone else thinks’. I’d never believe them, but it’s true, you know. This is it. This is my life and I absolutely love it. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve done things that other people couldn’t dream of.”

Taking opportunities and running with them

His persistence and focus on leading an active life gave him a big break in the form of a Paralympic talent-spotting day. He Impressed the talent scouts at their sprint trial and before long he was attending training once a week with top class coaches. He seized this amazing opportunity, threw himself into the new regime and never looked back. At London 2012 he met the original ‘Blade Runner’, Oscar Pistorius, who was very supportive and generous with his advice, perhaps a little underestimating of the Jonnie Peacock threat!

Breaking free of society’s labelling

Embedded in Jonnie Peacock’s highs and lows in life is his disregard for his perceived disability - in his sprinting he sees it as less a handicap and more an incentive to win. More generally, it’s clear he feels his life is better for the loss, as he would’ve otherwise missed out on many of the fantastic experiences he’s enjoyed.

While many doors became closed after Mr Peacock's amputation, an array of different ones opened into exciting and unpredictable areas. His confidence in grabbing hold of these opportunities, reaching far beyond society’s preconceptions of a ‘handicap’ is inspirational. His success has spurred a generation of so-called disabled young people (and no doubt many older ones!) to push back against society's self-imposed limitations.

We would benefit from adopting this attitude in our own lives. His tackling of every challenge with grit and good humour can show us what is possible when we focus on what we are capable of, rather than what we are not. We can learn from this story that important qualities, alongside ambition, include adaptability, imagination, a flexible and open mindset and the willpower to realise your dreams. It's through accessing these unique human qualities that we can open up our worlds, have more choice and ultimately more freedom. At the end of the day, we have the power to turn any challenge into an opportunity.

You can read more about Jonnie Peacock's amazing story in in the Express and the Evening Standard. Here's a video also highlighting the impact his example has made off the track...

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