Jody Cundy braced for most unusual Paralympics of his career

Jody Cundy is braced for the strangest Paralympics of his distinguished career as he bids to help prolong the golden generation of British cycling while enduring double isolation at the Tokyo Games.

The seven-time gold medallist is a veteran of six Paralympics having competed as a swimmer in Atlanta, Sydney and Athens before successfully moving to the bike for Beijing, London and Rio.

Strict restrictions due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have rendered his seventh successive Games a far different proposition, while track cyclists face further seclusion due their events being staged at the Izu Velodrome – approximately 90 miles from the host city.

Cundy, who will defend his C4-5 kilo title and compete in the mixed team sprint in Japan, is acutely aware of the unusual circumstances but adamant his approach will not be affected.

“It’s going to be a completely different Games and that was before Covid hit – being isolated away from the venues and so far away in Izu city,” he told the PA news agency.

“The velodrome is miles away from Tokyo.

“We’re going to a completely separate village to the athlete village that’s in Tokyo, we’re not going to see any team-mates from other sports when they come back and have won medals here, there and everywhere, so it’s going to a be a very strange Games.

“Because of Covid we’re literally going out there, racing and coming straight back. We don’t have the closing ceremony, we don’t have that time to mingle.

Jody Cundy began his Paralympic career in the swimming pool
Jody Cundy began his Paralympic career in the swimming pool (Gareth Copley/PA)

“But, at the end of the day, I’ve still got to get on the track and do four laps as fast I can – some things don’t change.”

The 42-year-old’s switch to the saddle following three golds in the pool has coincided with Great Britain topping the cycling medal table at each of the subsequent four Olympics and three Paralympics.

That period has also seen British riders Sir Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Simon Yates claim momentous Grand Tour victories.

Cundy is proud to have played his part in establishing Britain as the country to beat and says the personal challenge of retaining a Paralympic cycling title for the first time is fuelling his motivation this time around.

“It’s unbelievable that all of that has happened in the time that I’ve been within cycling,” said the Cambridgeshire–born rider, who won two golds in both Beijing and Rio, either side of a frustrating disqualification in the C4 1km time trial in London.

“To be part of it is pretty special, knowing those medals I’ve won are among the figures that have moved the goalposts forward and made us that nation that everybody chases.

“There is one thing that I really want to do that I’ve not done in cycling yet which I did in swimming, which is to do a back-to-back Games and win the same event.

“That’s motivating me to try and do bigger and better things.”

Like all British athletes heading to the Far East, Cundy – who had his right leg amputated below the knee at the age of three – has been denied the presence of family and friends due to Covid-19.

His parents Alan and Ann have barely missed a major championship in which he has competed but must settle for watching on television back home.

Jody Cundy's parents, in white polo shirts, have followed their son's sporting career all over the world
Jody Cundy’s parents, in white polo shirts, have followed their son’s sporting career all over the world (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“It’s many years of devotion and travelling the world that they’ve done to see me in action,” he said.

“To know that they are not going to be up in the stands in Tokyo is quite sad.

“It’s always nice on race day when you look up in stands and there’s a Union Jack with my name on that my mum and dad have had for God knows how many competitions.

“For that not to be there is going to be a bit weird.”