Jonnie Peacock calls on athletics to showcase para-sport on biggest stages

Jonnie Peacock calls on athletics to showcase para-sport on biggest stages
Suggestions to combine the World Championships have been met with short shrift from World Athletics, whose last showpiece event in Doha two years ago attracted tiny crowds

Double Paralympic champion Jonnie Peacock wants his sport’s decision makers to trust para-athletes to fill their stadiums.

Peacock joined forces with Libby Clegg, Ali Smith and Nathan Maguire as Great Britain won silver in the new 4x100m universal relay. The event was making its debut at the Games, featuring athletes with multiple sclerosis and visual impairment alongside an amputee and wheelchair racer. As a visual metaphor for what the Paralympics mean it was certainly powerful.

Diamond League events regularly feature para competitions but too often they are dismissed as token.

Suggestions to combine the World Championships have been met with short shrift from World Athletics, whose last showpiece event in Doha two years ago attracted tiny crowds.

However, a successful template does exist, with para events ever more integrated into the athletics programme at the Commonwealth Games, next year’s event in Birmingham, than ever before.

“Put a decibel meter in a stand when you have got a full stadium of an able-bodied athletics meet and a para-sport meet – listen to the noise,” he said. “The public like it but meet organisers don’t seem to agree. Hopefully one day they will.”

Meanwhile, Peacock paid tribute to Clegg as she brought the curtain down on her Paralympic athletics career with a podium performance.

“To be a part of Libby’s last race and get a medal with her is just incredible,” said Peacock, a bronze medallist in the men’s T64 100m. “She’s not talked about it but she’s run through so much pain at these Games and those were not easy legs for her. She gritted her teeth and got us a medal, I’m so proud.

“It’s a very different event and it showcases the best of everyone. It’s good fun to watch, not something you’d see at your average athletics meet and hopefully something you’ll see more of.”

Clegg thanked her long-time guide runner Chris Clarke and even claimed this medal trumped her double gold in Rio. She has hinted that she may return to the Games in cycling but right now she just wants to return home to son Edward.

“I’m so privileged and proud to be a part of this team and share this moment with these guys,” she said. “I won two Paralympic golds in Rio and it didn’t make me happy, right now this is my proudest moment – being part of this team.

“I’m going to take some time out but this is my last running competition, unless I dabble in a sports day when my son is at primary school. To end my athletics career with this medal is a dream come true.”

Elsewhere, two British defending champions fell short in their gold medal bids, Richard Whitehead took T61 200m silver and one-time I’m a Celebrity contestant Hollie Arnold admitted frustration with women’s F46 javelin bronze, driving rain not making for a high-quality competition.

“Even though I’m on the podium, it’s not where I want to be, I wanted the gold, I’ll be ready to fight next year,” she said.

Whitehead insisted retirement was not on the agenda, despite being beaten by South African teenager Ntando Mahlangu.

He said: “He’s 19, I’m 45. Age is but a number right? The thing with sport and Paralympic sport, it is not about classification, it is about legacy.”

Kadeena Cox, already a double gold medallist in the velodrome, set a season’s best 1:02.51 to qualify for the women’s T38 400m final, where she’ll be joined by team-mate Smith.

“I wanted to automatically qualify but I didn’t think I would have to run that fast to do it,” said Cox. “I also didn’t think I’d run a five second season best but I am really, really happy with that.

“I knew I’d be able to go quite a bit quicker than I’ve been doing. I wanted to be able to shut down near the end but I had to fight to the line. I knew as soon as I was in a line with the girls, it was a fight to the end.

“It’s nice to have made this final. It is the first time we have had rounds so it was a bit of a shock to the system so I’ll go back and recover. Hopefully I can top off a great Games tomorrow.”

Elsewhere, British world champion Jonathan Broom-Edwards won T44 men’s high jump gold and Owen Miller, in his Paralympic debut, won the T20 men’s 1500m. Hannah Taunton also claimed bronze in the women’s T20 1500m.

“I’ve been striving for that gold for years,” said Broom-Edwards. “They were horrible conditions so I tried to keep my cool and get it right when it counted. I’m so relieved, elated, excited and crying my eyes out.”

Sainsbury’s is a proud supporter of ParalympicsGB and a champion of inclusive sport for all. Sainsbury’s commitment to helping customers to eat better has been at the heart of what we do since 1869. For more information on Sainsbury’s visit www.sainsburys.co.uk/ and http://paralympics.org.uk/

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