By Will Jennings
Jody Cundy's cool head and composure were the critical components in capping British Cycling’s ‘oh my god’ moment at the Paralympic Games, admits teammate Jaco van Gass.
Wisbech ace Cundy, Van Gass and Kadeena Cox captured hearts in Tokyo by storming to team sprint gold in a trio that represented the best of modern Britain.
They sped to glory in world record time at the Izu Velodrome to finally topple the Chinese – who broke the previous world record in qualifying – and extend a golden summer for ParalympicsGB’s cycling stars.
Evergreen Cundy, 42, joined forces with Parachute Regiment veteran Van Gass – who moved to Britain from South Africa to join the Army – and Cox, who is the daughter of Jamaican migrants.
The triumph marked Cundy’s fifth Paralympic gold medal and Van Gass, who also claimed individual pursuit glory in Japan, admits his calmness and experience proved the difference when the pressure was on.
— Jody Cundy OBE (@jodycundy) September 6, 2021
“I would definitely say the team sprint was the highlight and the one that stands out between the others,” said Van Gass, one of over 1,000 athletes who are able to train full-time, access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support thanks to vital National Lottery funding.
“The individual pursuit was the one I focussed on and wanted to win for some time – but the one that really stood out and the ‘oh my god moment’, was definitely the team sprint.
“We all come from different backgrounds, different perspectives in life, all different forms of experience.
“Jody obviously has a tonne of experience – while this was my first Games, and it really showed. It really showed Jody was one of those people you could rely on – the qualifying went well but not as well as we planned or were hoping for.
“But Jody came in afterwards and said: ‘this is what I think we need to do.’ I didn’t have the best of starts, but he came in and said: ‘you know what Jaco, don’t worry about it.’
“He talked to me, put me in a good place and luckily, his experience just came through more when it was really needed.
“The three of us and the coaches sat down and said: ‘how do we go about going quicker and beating the Chinese? We came up with a plan – and it obviously worked.”
Cundy, Van Gass and Cox were left in the rear-view mirror in qualifying as the Chinese team sped to a blistering world record.
They stopped the clock in a time of 48.051s to solidify their superiority and leave the Brits with a mountain to climb.
But spearheaded by Cundy, the perfectly-formed trio remarkably turned the tables to return the world record favour in 47.579s and stun the Chinese riders.
The triumph marked Cundy’s seventh Paralympic medal since Beijing 2008 and also clinched his second medal of the Games, adding to his silver scooped in the individual kilo event.
#GOLD RUSH for @ParalympicsGB!@kad_c, @jodycundy & @jacovangass cycle their way to Gold and a NEW WORLD
RECORD in the Mixed C1-5 750M Team Sprint, amazing! 🤩#MakeAmazingHappen #ImpossibleToIgnore #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/qeWqmQIyv8
— The National Lottery (@TNLUK) August 28, 2021
And Van Gass, who also banked bronze in the individual time trial, admits everything falling together at the perfect time held the key to the team’s success.
“We knew we were a good team and we knew that on the day, if each and every athlete did what they potentially can do, we had a great team,” added the British Army veteran, whose medals were three of
of 1,000-plus achieved by British athletes since the advent of National Lottery funding to elite sport in 1997.
“Every time we did train together it never clicked, but it just clicked for that one race and that one moment.
“When it mattered more than any time before, it all came together. We’d been chasing the Chinese for the last three years, and to beat them by the small margin we did was amazing.
“To be part of that team is a great honour – it’s wonderful to share the moment with all the other riders.”
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