JONNIE Peacock has seen it all during his illustrious career to-date.
He has been roared to Paralympic glory at a spine-tingling Olympic Stadium and won medals galore on the international stage – but the atmosphere at the Superhero Tri powered by npower still gave him goosebumps.
The event was staged at Eton Dorney, steeped in Olympic history as the venue for London 2012’s rowing events, on August 18 and saw celebrities lead triathlon relay teams.
Peacock guided three disabled children and their families along the course, a role also performed by Last Leg comedian Adam Hills and six-time Paralympic champion David Weir
The two-time Paralympic gold medallist is no stranger to feeling the support of a nation and was blown away by the backing given to the 2,500-people taking part across the day.
“Last year it was great, but it’s just got bigger and better this time around,” said Peacock, returning to skipper Team npower for the second time.
“There was just this really good vibe, a constant noise, with everyone screaming support.
“I had three disabled kids on my team and they were just so full of energy, so happy and I think they had a great day.
“It gives the kids the chance to get out there and have the likes of David and Adam alongside them – being able to do a day of sport alongside your heroes is awesome.
“It was an event perfect for breaking down the barriers children with disability can experience in getting involved with sport.”
Founded by ex-Paralympian Sophie Warner, the Superhero Series is the only mass-participation series dedicated to the UK’s 13.3 million people with disabilities.
Warner – who, like Peacock, competed at London 2012 in the 200m T35 – has tasted the top of her sport but was keen to diffuse the notion that Paralympians always set the tone.
“I think it’s almost ironic that I’m a Paralympian because this really isn’t about the Paralympics at all,” explained the 44-year-old, who has cerebral palsy.
“It’s more about people wanting to do sport for fun and bridging the gap between the top level and the very early starters.
“It’s just really nice to make disability a normality – for one day, those with disabilities were the majority and the able-bodied were in the minority.
“We shouldn’t assume interest in disability sport ever just comes from the Paralympics – at this event, people were inspired by celebrities and people who had no connection to sport.”
Professor Greg Whyte, a former Olympian and trainer for such celebrities as David Walliams, Cheryl Cole and Gary Barlow, who headed up the npower Support Squad, a team of expert swimmers who gave participants a helping hand across the swim leg of the race. The former modern pentathlete emphasised the importance of directly involving disabled children, making their role in the event active rather than passive.
“Inclusivity is a word we use a lot in society, but I think disabled accessibility is still a big problem,” said Whyte.
“It’s not just about giving them separate swimming pools, separate gyms, separate facilities but including them.
“At Dorney we put some profoundly disabled children out onto dinghies, pushing them around the course. It makes them part of it.
“Rather than them just coming along and watching, they are one of the athletes.”