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My first boss: Jonnie Peacock, double GB Paralympic champion

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Great Britain's Jonnie Peacock (right) wins the Men's 100m T44 during day three of the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships at London Stadium.
Jonnie Peacock wins men's 100m T44 world para gold in 2017 at the London Stadium. Photo: PA

British sprint champion Jonnie Peacock had his right leg amputated after contracting meningitis aged five. As a 19-year-old, Peacock made history to win the T44 100m at London 2012 and repeated the feat at Rio 2016.

In 2017, Peacock, also a double Euro and world champion, competed on Strictly Come Dancing before returning at Tokyo 2020 bidding for a hat-trick of Parlympic titles. He won bronze and the 28-year-old harbours hopes of appearing at two more Paralympics.

I was obsessed with mechanics as a child. My parents used to give me a Top Gear magazine subscription and my bedroom wall was plastered with cars, while my best mate’s dad owned a garage and let me come in as a 14-year-old and I started researching everything.

One day I called up all the garages in my home town in Cambridgeshire asking them if I could help out. Everyone said no apart from two chaps called Angus and Steve, who ran St Ives Motors. Angus told me much later that he didn’t need me but he was impressed by my drive and passion to pick up the phone. Usually it was people’s mothers.

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I am quite independent in myself and Angus saw my self-drive. I was there for four years and they soon had the cleanest workshop in the town as my job involved sweeping up and helping out with odd jobs.

Behind the scenes Steve was a terror, always throwing things at me! It was a jovial atmosphere, but one where I learnt a bit of responsibility, when to have that level of professionalism and how to speak to customers. It was a big life experience.

I got £5 per hour, working an hour after school every day. Eventually I was able to shadow a colleague on Saturdays, when I could be more hands-on with cars.

I asked about mechanic apprenticeships when I reached 16 and that was my goal; if I hadn’t ended up in sport, my ultimate aim was to reach the top and be a Lamborghini mechanic.

Britain's Jonnie Peacock (C) wins the men's 100m T-44 final ahead of South Africa's Amu Fourie (L) and Richard Browne of the U.S. in the Olympic Stadium at the London 2012 Paralympic Games September 6, 2012. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT OLYMPICS ATHLETICS)
Jonnie Peacock crosses the line to win men's 100m T44 gold at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Photo: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

Sport took over in 2011 when I became a full-time athlete a year before the Paralympics. A garage colleague walked into a bookmakers to place a bet on me to win in London, but they couldn’t take it as the Paralympics was so new. When I started winning races, he went back in but my price had plummeted.

I went on to study engineering at college for four months until I told my parents I wanted to become an athlete. They agreed, saw potential and let me run with it. Life snowballed from there.

I met Dan Pfaff in late 2011. I was doing a personal best with every race and he asked me why I wanted to change coaches. I remember saying that it was all about self-improvement and I felt my first coach Hayley had taught me everything up until that point. For me it was about going to the top level and taking the risk.

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It was similar to the 14-year-old boy who phoned up those garages; if you want to be the best mechanic you have to put yourself out there and start working soon. It may be scary for some people, but it’s about the reward and it’s worth working for that. I had to go with the best coach and Dan saw my hunger.

I’ve learnt that as long as you find a way to make money that keeps you safe and gives you a level of comfort in what you are looking for, the biggest thing is happiness. The best lesson I’ve learnt from sport is that there are always multiple options with money. For me it’s picking the one that gives me the most happiness.

Jonnie Peacock and partner Oti Mabuse jivin to Johnny B. Goode
Jonnie Peacock and partner Oti Mabuse during Strictly Come Dancing. Photo: Getty

I also know that there is still not much education or knowledge for amputees today.

Last year’s Blade Camp was about trying to give them the ability to attack the rest of their life and trying to minimise the impact that their disability can have. By doing sport and helping with their movement, the idea was to give them the tools to take control with their everyday life and to be independent, which is what I had at a young age.

Jonnie’s recent work with Qube Learning, a leading national recruitment and training solutions provider that looks at raw talent not just CVs, saw him champion the success of those who have taken less conventional routes into development through apprenticeships, traineeships, remote learning, and other progressive programmes. More here www.qube-learning.co.uk

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