U.S. Paralympian Blake Leeper has issued a challenge to the men’s 100-meter (T44) Paralympic champion Jonnie Peacock ahead of this weekend’s BT Great CityGames in Manchester, suggesting the British athlete may not have it all his own way in front of home crowds.
The two will line-up over 100m on Saturday. “I think I can [beat him], but I’m going to have to prove that and back it up on the track,” two-time Paralympic medalist Leeper said following the Desert Challenge last weekend.
“I feel like I am the faster runner, but he [Peacock] knows the 100m, and the 100m is quick, and Jonnie is very powerful. He’s going to get out [the blocks] on me but I hope I have enough time to go catch him,” Leeper said.
“I'm certainly going to be prepared to be really competitive.”
Leeper, a double below the knee amputee, won bronze and silver in 200m and 400m T44 events in London where he says the crowds encouraged him to push his performances to new levels. He expects this weekend to be no different.
“I love coming to the UK – I loved running in London,” said Leeper who last year equaled the 100m T43 world record with a time of 10.91. His mark is just 0.6 seconds slower than Peacock’s T44 word record for single below the knee amputees, set at the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Trials Track and Field in Indianapolis.
“I ran seven races at the Paralympics in London and every race was sold out. You could feel the love and the energy from the crowd, so going back to the UK, I'm just so excited,” added the 23 year-old.
Leeper is also buoyed by the chance to race at a free-to-spectate street meeting for the first time.
“I've watched so many of these street races on television,” he said. “It’s going to be pretty cool. The best place I've ever performed was the Paralympic Games in 2012, what with the atmosphere, but I think this might be pretty close to that as I know the crowds are going to be amazing.”
Both men will be looking to make their mark at the Manchester city centre track. Peacock has not competed since his 100m T44 victory in the Olympic Park last September, whilst Leeper is looking to make amends for a disappointing performance in Arizona whilst coming back from a hamstring injury sustained while competing at the Kansas Relays.
They will line up against London 100m bronze medalist Arnu Fourie and Dutchman Ronald Hertog, the T44 javelin thrower turned sprinter.
Paralympic champion Alan Oliveira, who won the men’s 200m (T44) in London, will also be in action over his favored distance against Fourie, who will double up over the sprints, American David Prince and German David Behre.
The BT Great CityGames Manchester will take place May 25 on an International Association of Athletics Federations certified, purpose built track and pop-up athletics arena in the city centre.
All events are free to spectators, with no tickets required for entry.