Kadeena Cox smashes cycling record en route to Paralympic gold

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Kadeena Cox, 30, celebrates after defending her C4-5 500m time trial Paralympic title (Credit: imagecomms)
Kadeena Cox, 30, celebrates after defending her C4-5 500m time trial Paralympic title (Credit: imagecomms)

If energy and persistence conquer all things then it is no wonder Kadeena Cox can’t be stopped, writes Charlie Bennett.

Amid an injury-ravaged year and an eating disorder flare-up, the 30-year-old somehow found the resolve and courage to not only defend her C4-5 500m time trial Paralympic gold, but smash the world record in the process.

When Canada’s Kate O’Brien, the previous world record holder, clocked 35.439 seconds just before Cox was due on track, the chances of her repeating Rio’s cycling-athletics double seemed in jeopardy.

But within half a lap, those fears were eased. Kadeena has come too far and through far too much to settle for second.

She crossed the line in 34.812 seconds, and her C5 disability meant that was adjusted to 34.433, a whole second quicker than O’Brien. It was dominance on a scale befitting the sight of Mount Fuji in the distance.

As role models go, Cox is surely one of Britain’s most important.

She was refreshingly open about her struggles with an eating disorder two years ago, and admits it has again plagued her on the eve of the Games, while as Britain’s only Black cyclist to win either an Olympic or Paralympic medal, she is forging footsteps for others to walk in.

"I totally expect there to be a young boy or girl seeing me and going on to be better than me and that's what I want to see,” said Cox, who is able to train full-time and benefit from world class facilities, technology, coaching and support teams thanks to National Lottery funding.

“This year has been tough and I have tried to not focus on it but I have been injured since my last session at the end of last year.

“At Christmas I got injured and I have had injury after injury, which has been hard because it impacts both sports and it is hard mentally.

“It has made my eating disorder creep back up, which has been quite difficult but I have a great support network who have helped get me through and make this moment even more special.

“I did have breakfast. I have a great team, my psychiatrist Alan has helped me loads and we spoke a few days ago and came up with a plan, which I was able to execute.”

If a series of knee injuries and returning illness wasn’t enough to contend with, temperatures soared to 35 degrees in Japan - the worst-case scenario for an athlete with multiple sclerosis.

On the podium, Cox, her hair dyed red, white and blue to match the British flag, was clearly struggling to move as well as she normally would and her speech was slightly slurred – the effects of the intense heat 74 per cent humidity clearly apparent, even inside a velodrome.

“I have MS and I’m heat intolerant so it is tricky, it is affecting my spasms and affected my speech which is annoying because I like talking,” she said.

“It is a struggle and it will take me a little bit longer to recover, which hopefully isn’t too long because we have a race in 24 hours.”

Indeed she does, leg two of a Tokyo treble alongside Jody Cundy and Jaco van Gass – who added a bronze in the C1-3 1000m time trial to Thursday’s individual pursuit gold - in the mixed team sprint.

After that, she will turn her attention to the athletics track to defend her T38 400m title. In Rio, she became the first British athlete to win two golds in two different sports since 1984 but Cox has played down her chances of a double-double.

She admits track time has been limited this year but on this evidence, she can’t be discounted.

She added: “I tried not to cry on the podium. I tried to enjoy this - it didn’t hit me until I got to the podium, it was a bit overwhelming. I got lots of messages from my family, my Grandad who hasn’t been well sent a message just saying ‘go get the gold’.”

No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around £36 million each week for good causes including grassroots and elite sport. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtags: #TNLAthletes #MakeAmazingHappen

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