The Peacock problem: just how do you follow that?

It's Been A Wonderful Year For... After winning 100m gold with 80,000 fans chanting his name, 19-year-old Jonnie knows it can never get any better; he discusses his dilemma with Robin Scott-Elliot

How do you solve the Peacock problem? It is, it should be said, a pleasant puzzle to wrestle with, but nevertheless it needs a solution. It goes like this. You are an Olympic or Paralympic athlete and this summer you achieved the ultimate, winning gold in a home Games. It is an opportunity given to few, one seized by even fewer. Mission accomplished – so what next? Where on earth do you go now?

It is one by no means unique to Jonnie Peacock – there are plenty of others scratching their heads as winter replaces Britain's golden summer – but we are talking about it, so for the purposes of this discussion it will have his name attached.

"The Olympic depression," says Peacock. "A lot of people get it. You've done what you wanted to do – there is nothing more you can achieve above that. If I go to Rio and get a gold medal it won't be anywhere near as special as a first Games, a home Games. Yes, it would be special, but it's not going to be that special."

It is a refrain familiar to many of those who were embedded in this summer. Jason Kenny, a double gold winner in the velodrome, has admitted struggling to get himself back on to his bike at the age of 24, while Chris Furber, the coach of Britain's Paracyclists, confessed to feeling "empty and directionless". Jessica Ennis called the return to training "horrible".

Peacock does not leave his teens behind until May and the greatest feat he will achieve in his sporting career is behind him. He knows it. On a mild September night, 80,000 people inside the Olympic Stadium chanted his name – something that hadn't happened to Ennis or Mo Farah – before he sprinted to 100m gold in the race of the Games. Such was the cacophony of support that poured from the stands, Peacock had to climb off his blocks to implore them to be quiet so the race could start. That he did so with a large smile spread across his face offers a suggestion as to how he will solve his problem.

Motivation matters in elite sport and finding fuel for the future now occupies the minds of coaches and athletes, especially for a Paralympian who will not perform in front of anything like the London crowd for another four years. One of Peacock's strengths appears to be an ability to live in the moment. He revelled in London. But time to move on – and time is the initial key.

"That's my motivation for the next year or so – running faster," says Peacock, already the world record holder in the T44 class with 10.85sec. "I should have run faster than I did in the Games. I'm still quite new to the sport, we don't know where I am going. I could break at 10.8, maybe hit 10.7 next year and stay there for the rest of my life. But I could run 10.6 then 10.5 the year after that – you never know."

We are sitting in a large room in a Surrey sports club, laid out for a meet-the-athlete session as part of Parafest, an attempt to build on the Games. Peacock has spent an age signing autographs and posing for pictures, smiling and joking throughout for men, women, plenty of children, some disabled, some non-disabled.

"It's cool to see them interested in Paralympic sport," he says. "I never expected this kind of reaction. This is something that really changed my life, when I came to this thing four years ago."

It was at a talent-spotting day at the tiny Mile End Stadium barely a mile from where the Olympic Stadium was being built, that Peacock found himself, and not just as an athlete. It is an experience others are going through as we speak. Earlier, a man in his forties told me how he had never worn shorts before the London Paralympics because he did not like people staring at his prosthetic limb. Today his limb is out and proud.

"That's wicked," says Peacock. "People don't think it's a big deal, but it is. I remember I would never walk around in shorts, people staring. Now people are more proud of who they are. What happened to me, when I came [to Mile End] four years ago and first saw the other amputee guys – cool guys, one was absolutely covered in tattoos and was just standing there wearing shorts with this wicked robot leg standing out – it was the first time I really felt I wasn't different and there were people like me. Regardless of whether I made it to the elite level it did change my life turning up that day. It will be the same for people here."

A record-breaking audience of more than six million watched Peacock's race on Channel 4. It has given his sport an opportunity it has never had – hence Parafest – and it has made Peacock a national figure. "I've seen pictures of kids going to fancy-dress parties with cardboard legs, and another who made a cardboard wheelchair because he wanted to be Dave Weir," he says. "I didn't expect it to be as big as it has been."

So what has it been like? He pauses and shrugs. "Celebrity Juice, going on Alan Carr – these are the things I watch. When they asked me to go on, I was like, 'Why do they want me? I'm not anyone – if I was watching it I wouldn't want to watch me!' It was wicked to see the Paralympics get that. That's a reason why I do it; it's important to recognise the Paralympics and jolt people's memories – remember this."

It is a familiar, and striking, characteristic of many Olympians and Paralympians; how they feel a sense of duty to fly the flag for their sport. They as much as the people who run their sports accept that this is their moment, carpe diem and all that. Yet Peacock is only 19: it must be challenging at times taking an ambassadorial role.

"I know what you mean," he says. "I try and live my life, take each bridge as you come to it. That's what I did last year and that's what I've done this year. Whatever happens, we'll see. But I think it's important for whoever it is to bring recognition to the sport.

"Look at Oscar Pistorius. He was only 18, 19 when he started getting all the attention and he coped brilliantly with it and now he's an ambassador for the whole of Paralympic sport."

On that night – for what Peacock calls the "daddy race", the 100m final – Pistorius was introduced first and received noisy acclaim. Peacock felt the first of three fleeting moments of doubt that evening: did they want him to win more than me? Then he was presented to the crowd and doubt No 1 vanished.

"I was probably the most relaxed I have been because I knew I was prepared. And when the crowd started going crazy it was like, 'Yes, this is mine, this is my track. They want me to win – they don't want Oscar to win.' It was amazing.

"I remember getting to 60m and coming upright and then thinking, 'S**t, I could win this', then seeing the line and thinking, 'Oh God, I could actually win this'. Then at the same time I was thinking, 'Wait, when's Oscar going to come up?'"

That was moment No 2, one that could be counted in a couple of seconds. The third came after he crossed the line. Watch the race back and you see an initial burst of joy, then he slows and stares at the big screen that looms over the finish.

"It was, 'Wait, let's make sure I've actually won before I start celebrating'." He watched the replay. "It felt like a lifetime. I wasn't too sure – maybe someone had slipped up inside me and pipped me at the post. It was about making sure."

The day before we met was his first back in full training since a post-Games ankle operation. He is getting back in business after the post-Games whirl, which included one week of holiday, him and a friend on a road trip around France and Belgium.

"I was living on burgers – burgers and beer, that's all," he says. "It's about enjoying it – that's the most important thing. That's what keeps you in it. If I have a burger once a week and it keeps me in it for 10 more years, then bring it on."

Problem solved.

Top five moments of the Paralympics

1 Ellie Simmonds

The 17-year-old was the face of Britain's Paralympic team and she was feeling the pressure. But when it mattered she rose gloriously to the occasion, holding off Victoria Arlen to win the 400m freestyle. The roof nearly came off the Aquatics Centre.

2 Jonnie Peacock

Peacock calls it the "daddy race", the 100m final, and he ruled it. The T43/44 was the best field ever assembled at a Paralympics – Oscar Pistorius finished only fourth – and Peacock produced the performance of his young life to win in 10.90sec.

3 David Weir

Gold No 3 of four – winning the 800m and, like Peacock, leaving a quality field struggling in his wake. His suit was undone as he came off the bend to overtake China's Zhang Lixin and power home. Marcel Hug, the world record holder, could do nothing.

4 Sarah Storey

Gold No 1 of four – it was Britain's first of the Games on day one of the Games. Storey got the home team off to a flying start with an utterly dominant performance in the C5 pursuit, catching her opponent, Poland's Anna Harkowska, before the halfway point of the 3,000m race.

5 Brad Snyder

This is about human achievement as much as sporting achievement. A year to the day after he was blinded by a Taliban bomb, Snyder won freestyle gold. Speaking to him afterwards was to warm to a humble, good man who has rebuilt his life through sport.

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
Sport
Wayne Rooney talks to the media during a press conference
sport
Arts and Entertainment
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager (infrastructure, upgrades, rollouts)

£38000 - £45000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

MI Analyst and SQL Developer (SQL, SSAS, SSRS)

£28000 - £32500 Per Annum + 28 days holiday, pension, discounts and more: Clea...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Reception Teachers needed for September 2014

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Re...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?