Jonnie Peacock ‘didn’t want his disability to set him apart’ says former PE teacher

JONNIE Peacock’s former St Ivo School PE teacher Chris Havard said the Paralympic gold medal sprinter ‘just wanted to be treated like any other kid and made it easy for the school’ when he was there as a pupil.

Nineteen-year-old Peacock shot to fame last Thursday when he beat South African legend Oscar Pistorius to the gold medal in the T43/44 100 metres sprint in the Olympic Stadium.

Peacock contracted meningitis when he was five and his right leg was amputated below the knee. But he was 15 before he settled on sprinting and remarkably he only ran his first race on the international circuit in May this year.

Havard told The Hunts Post: “The thing about Jonnie was he was confident swimming, playing football and rugby – playing all sorts of sports with his prosthetic leg.

“Jonnie didn’t want his disability to set him apart – he wanted to be part of the mainstream.

“He just wanted to be treated like everyone else and do what everyone else was doing.

“He made it easy for us.”

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Peacock was born in Cambridge and bought up in Shepreth, but lived in St Ives while he attended St Ivo, training on the athletics track at the St Ivo Outdoor centre.

He moved to Doddington after leaving secondary school where the Royal Mail has now painted a post box gold in his honour. While at St Ivo, Peacock was encouraged to get involved with the ‘Playground to Podium’ scheme – and he was soon competing against other athletes with similar disabilities.

After leaving he was paired up with Canadian coach Dan Pfaff – and in June he set a new world record in amputee sprinting at the United States Paralympic track and field trials, recording a time of 10.85 seconds.

Those in the know were quietly confident that he could take gold – and it was one of those special Olympic/Paralympic moments that unified the country in support of ‘another’ inspirational athlete when he completely dominated the field to claim the top prize with Pistorius finishing the race in fourth.

“The school is very proud,” said his 40-year-old former teacher. “All the kids were talking about him the next day.”

Meanwhile, Huntingdon-born swimmer Harriet Lee was celebrating a medal at the Paralympic Games too.

The 21-year-old won a bronze in the SB9 100 metres breaststroke final on Saturday and she later tweeted: “This has been the most amazing experience of my life. Never give up on your dreams; anything is possible.”

Also competing at the Games was Sawtry’s 19-year-old swimmer Lauren Steadman and Paralympic GB’s sitting volleyball captain Rob Richardson.