Jarryd Wallace has nothing but good memories of London.
It was at London’s Olympic Stadium in 2012 that Wallace made his Paralympic Games debut. Just two years after the amputation of his leg, he was ecstatic simply to be part of the Games.
“It was an absolute amazing experience,” recalled Wallace, now 27.
It was the launching pad to a terrific career that has included two Paralympic Games, two world championship gold medals (in the 200-meter and 4x100-meter) and world records in the 100- and 200-meter.
Then, last year in London, he beat British star and 2012 Paralympic gold medalist Jonnie Peacock in the IPC Grand Prix 100-meter, at the last tune-up before the Paralympic Games Rio 2016.
“That was a test for me,” said Wallace. “All the top guys. We had five of the top eight guys in the world there, and I was able to win that race and beat Jonnie on his home turf. That was a huge confidence booster.”
So, when Wallace steps on the same track for the World Para Athletics Championships, which begin Friday, he’ll certainly be on familiar, successful ground. And he’s ready. The sprinter from Athens, Georgia — who will compete in the 100, 200 and 4x100 — says he’s as healthy and ready as he’s ever been.
“I’m ready to go and perform well and have some fun,” he said.
If he can, he’ll continue an arc of success spanning the past two years. In 2015, he set the world record in the 100-meter for his T44 classification, at 10.71, then had what he considers the best overall year of his career in 2016, with one exception: the Paralympic Games.
At Rio, feeling at less than 100 percent while battling a virus, he ran just 11.16 to finish fifth in the 100-meter final that was won by Peacock in 10.81.
“I obviously was a little bit bummed by the outcome,” said Wallace.
Almost a year later, he’s going into London with a much different mindset than he had before Rio. After getting married just after those Games and returning to school, he’s been focusing not so much on results — or setting specific goals — but on training, the process and enjoying what he’s doing.
So far, it’s been a winning formula.
Wallace goes into the world championships ranked No. 1 in the world in his classification in the 200-meter (with a best of 22.03) and No. 2 in the 100 (10.93), ranked only behind Peacock, who’s run 10.76 this year. Wallace won the 100 at the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Championships at UCLA in June, running 11.28 to top Jerome Singleton (11.50) and Rob Brown (12.29).
Wallace considers Peacock a friend as well as a rival, and looks forward to yet another rematch.
“He’s a phenomenal competitor,” says Wallace. “It’s a lot of fun to get to line up against him.”
Peacock, too, sees Wallace as the man to beat. Seven years after losing his right leg below the knee to compartment syndrome, Wallace is among the world’s elite Paralympic sprinters.
“I think Jarryd Wallace hasn’t shown all of his cards this year,” Peacock told a reporter earlier this month. “And I think he’s going to come into the championships with some great form.”
Wallace says he and his coach have a new approach to training since Rio. Results haven’t mattered as much as consistent progress toward peaking in London. Yes, he wants medals, especially in the 100. Yes, he wants to set records. But he knows if he pays attention to the daily work and not the short- or long-term goals, they’ll come.
Wallace believes his workout numbers on and off the track have been encouraging.
“Today’s workout was another confirmation that we’re moving in the right direction and making the right decisions from a training standpoint,” he said this week from his home, just before leaving for Great Britain. “Hopefully those numbers will continue to track in the right direction and come race day we’ll be able to do some special things.”
Doug Williams covered three Olympic Games for two Southern California newspapers and was the Olympic editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has written for TeamUSA.org since 2011 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.