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Jody Cundy expressed fear about not knowing what the real world is like.
Cycling Sport

Jody Cundy expressed fear about not knowing what the real world is like.


The bikes at the Manchester velodrome are circling rapidly, only pausing for the occasional hooter. Jody Cundy is in the stands, bundled up against the chilly wind and sleet outside, watching the action unfold.

In addition to his friendly smile, Cundy is a remarkable athlete who has achieved three Paralympic and three world championships in swimming before transitioning to track cycling. He has since earned five more Paralympic gold medals (in the C4/5 kilo and mixed team sprint) and 20 world titles. Amazingly, Paris will mark his eighth Paralympic appearance.

At 45 years old, he still isn’t entirely certain if he will retire from competing in September. He reflects, “I believed that the London Games would be my final one, but here we are 12 years later discussing the upcoming ones.” He continues, “I was taken aback by my performances in Tokyo and how I was able to tap into a new level. We’ll have to wait and see how I perform at the Games. Sports has been my focus for the past 30 years, so I am unsure about what the real world is like. That thought frightens me a bit.”

Cundy was born with a disfigured right foot that was amputated when he was three. He sunk to the bottom of the pool at his first school lesson aged five, was swiftly enrolled at a local swimming club by his parents, and hasn’t looked back. After an 11‑year swimming career, he tried out a disability open day at the Newport velodrome, was talent-spotted and has been part of British Cycling since 2006. That’s 18 years of wheeling away at the track face.

Jody Cundy celebrates on the podium with his gold medal for the men’s C4-5 1000m time trial at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.

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According to Cundy, a member of UK Sport’s world class program funded by the National Lottery, no matter how many training styles we try, there are only a limited number of ways to achieve success. Hard work is necessary.

In my race, the 1km time trial, we divide it into distinct parts. First, there is the initial phase where we accelerate the bike from the starter gate to the quarter mark on the back straight. Then, we sit down and continue accelerating while getting into aero position. The goal is to reach top speed during the first two laps. The remainder of the race is all about maintaining proper form and function, as well as enduring the training necessary to push through the last two laps.

It sounds unpleasant. The event is not enjoyable. If you are able to completely relax and let go… After winning, I have been unconscious in the center of the track for 15 minutes. You cannot celebrate because you are lying on the ground with lactic acid building up in your legs. However, you have the gratification of executing it correctly and doing it successfully.

It may seem implausible to the average person that someone would choose to continue pushing themselves beyond their limits despite achieving great success over many years. Reflecting on his motivation, the individual explains, “As time has passed, my drive has evolved. Initially, it was about proving others wrong and winning. Then, it shifted to simply enjoying the feeling of winning and wanting to repeat it. When I switched from swimming to cycling, I experienced a similar sensation to when I was a teenager – every time I rode, I improved and found pure enjoyment in the process.”

He achieved victory in Beijing and then traveled to London. However, he faced disqualification due to a dispute with the starting gate, causing him to become furious. This incident fueled his determination for the Rio Olympics. The journey from Rio to Tokyo was more challenging, but he knew he had not yet reached his fullest potential. With the postponement of the Games due to Covid, he discovered new methods of training and a deeper understanding of his aging body. As a result, he was able to deliver some of his strongest performances to date.

Jody Cundy celebrates winning the mixed team sprint final in Manchester during the Paracycling International.

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Regrettably, the progress came to a halt due to health issues followed by an injury. He was unable to ride a bike, causing a decline in his physical condition and weight gain. A year ago, he hit rock bottom, facing additional personal challenges.

“I shared a post on Instagram during the national event, expressing that I was feeling down despite my win due to personal circumstances. I even considered quitting the sport at that moment. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming support from strangers and people who may not have been invested in my journey. It was a powerful reminder that my efforts were valued and it motivated me to stay focused and committed.”

Since then, there have been peaks and troughs, a 20th cycling world title at Glasgow last summer and a stint off the bike with the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. Ahead, the world championships in Rio, the national championships and then the Paris Olympics this summer. He thinks six or seven athletes are in with a chance of winning the kilo, and he can’t wait.

“The track is beautiful and larger than our track in Manchester. It has the same length but with steeper bankings. Although this does not affect my own event, it will likely result in faster times for sprint events for able-bodied athletes because of the increased height to drop from. When athletes are competing on a fast and easy track, they have the potential to achieve world record performances. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a world record?”

Source: theguardian.com