Kadeena Cox retains Paralympic time trial title with ‘near-perfect’ race

Kadeena Cox hailed her electrifying world-record display as “near-perfect” as she set aside pre-Paralympic issues to retain the C4-5 500m time trial title in Tokyo.

Dual-sport star Cox dyed her hair red and blue ahead of powering to glory in the Izu Velodrome after fellow Great Britain cyclist Jaco Van Gass claimed a bronze.

The Leeds-born Paralympian came into her second successive Games having battled disordered eating and a series of injury issues since becoming one of the headline-grabbing stories of Rio 2016.

Cox, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2014, wrote her name into the history books in Brazil by setting global bests en route to claiming gold in the time trial and the T38 400m athletics event.

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And she took an impressive first step towards emulating those achievements here in Japan by getting the better of Canadian rival Kate O’Brien before struggling to contain tears on the podium.

“It feels amazing, I knew I was going to have to do something special and I knew if I put everything together me and my coach have worked on, it would be amazing and that’s what happened so I am so happy,” she said.

“I was not paying attention to what anyone was doing, I was just listening to my gospel music and just reading messages from my family and focusing on that. I got up and did my own thing.

“I think today I executed a race that was near-perfect.

“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 hard but I have a great support network who have helped get me through and make this moment even more special.”

Cox crossed the line in 34.812, which was reduced to a real time of 34.433 due to her being in the lower of the two classifications.

Her fellow C4 rider O’Brien had been a able-bodied athlete – initially in bobsleigh and then on the bike – up until the summer of 2017 when she was told she would never walk again after being left in a coma with a serious brain injury following a crash into the motorbike that was pacing her.

Despite also being diagnosed with epilepsy a year later, the 33-year-old made a remarkable recovery and beat Cox at the 2020 Track World Championships on home soil, in a then-world record time.

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The Briton avenged that loss in the Japanese capital and will go again on Saturday in the Mixed C1-5 750m Team Sprint alongside Van Gass and Jody Cundy before turning her attention to retaining gold on the track.

“Maybe I will go quicker tomorrow with the boys either side of me,” she said, before explaining her eye-catching hairstyle choice.

“I like to be different so I thought blue and red will match the kit and make me stand out and be the quirky Kadeena that I am,” she said

Earlier in the day, Afghanistan veteran Van Gass broke his second world record in as many days but had to settle for third place in the men’s C1-3 1000m time trial.

The 35-year-old who powered to victory in the 3000m individual pursuit on Thursday, finished in 1:05.569.

Yet with the event featuring athletes from different classifications, the unprecedented C3 time was not sufficient for another trip to the top of the podium as China’s C1 rider Li Zhangyu, who took gold, and C2 Frenchman Alexandre Leaute had their times factored due to the greater severity of their impairments.

South African-born Van Gass was more than satisfied with his day’s work and compared the intensity of the event to pedalling in treacle.

“That’s as much as I can give, I promise you that,” he said

“The legs felt a little bit heavy, especially that last lap – felt like treacle. But I gave it my all.

“The standard is phenomenal.  You can see it in C1, 2 and 3 classes. The game plan for today was always the world record, that was my goal. If it came with a medal like it did then it was a bonus. So I’m very happy.”

GB top the cycling medal table after three days, having won three gold, five silver and a bronze.