JODY Cundy has accumulated five gold medals already and is looking to add to his impressive collection when the London 2012 Paralympic Games commence today.
This will be the Walpole-born cyclist’s fifth Paralympic Games but as he says: “You just cannot imagine anything better than for them to be happening in your own country.
“When I was watching the Olympics and the pursuit team was going round the velodrome and the Mexican wave was following them round the stadium it was just mind-blowing. Then there was the noise of the crowd cheering Sir Chris Hoy reaching 120 decibels which was unbelievable. Excited goes nowhere near to covering it.”
Many people are already heralding the 2012 Paralympics as the best ever before it has even started and Jody would certainly not disagree. “Beijing was as big as anything I had competed in before, but this time the games tickets have already been sold out and the build-up to the event has been bigger than anything before.”
The 33-year-old Cundy was born with a deformed right foot and at the age of three it was amputated above the ankle so he could be fitted with an artificial leg. He eventually took up swimming and won on his international debut in the 100m butterfly at the World Championships in Malta in 1994.
In all Jody had 10 years as a top swimmer and competed at the Atlanta, Sidney and Athens Paralympic Games and over that period he won 23 international medals including six World and Paralympic golds.
The switch to cycling came purely by chance as he explained: “I had joined the high performance swimming centre at Swansea and there was a cycling open day at the recently opened Newport velodrome and I went along with some others to give it a go.
“I had done some cross training with cycling to help with my swimming, but never at high speeds. I really enjoyed it and decided to pursue it further .”
In fact he was a natural and within a year he had won the flying 200m at the National Championships in Manchester in 2005 and Olympic cycling superstar, Sir Chris Hoy, helped answer his doubts about the switch.
“Cycling really gave me the chance to extend my sporting career as swimmers do not go on mostly beyond 25 and it was clearly my sport so I hung up my trunks and goggles.”
To prove that point Jody has won 13 World and Paralympic Gold medals and world records too.
At Beijing four years ago he took gold in both the 1km trial and the Team Sprint, but in London it will be the trial and a relatively new event for Jody the 4km pursuit.
Jody had hoped to also defend his Team Sprint, but earlier this month lost in a trial for the final place in the squad by .03 of a second and commented: “It was very disappointing especially as it was so close but on the day I will warm up as reserve and hopefully the team will get a gold.”
Earlier this year Jody took gold in the 1km trial and bronze in the 4km pursuit at the World Championships in Los Angeles so how difficult has it been to peak twice in such a short time.
He has had a special patriotic-designed new leg made for London and said: “The training since then has gone really well. My coach marks all my pbs in training with a green highlighter and he tells me he has run out of green ink.
“I am really ready for the 1km trial but the opposition is stiffer although I think there is every opportunity of an even better performance especially with a crowd of 6,000 cheering in the stadium.
“In the 4km pursuit I have had a silver and bronze in the the two World Championships I have been in the event so it would be great to make it a full set this time.
“But I will be up against the Romanian Carol Edward Novak and the Czech Jiri Kezek who beat me in Los Angeles, but I felt I was below my best then and I’m in a better position than I was earlier in the year. I am also sure the atmosphere this time will be a big plus for me to produce much better.
“So we will see how things pan out but every split second counts and hopefully you can find that last little bit of strength and spirit when you need it.”
All the home competitors received tremendous support at the Olympics and no doubt it will be the same for the Paralympians but Jody will also have plenty of family support too.
“All the family have now got tickets but are dotted around the stadium rather in one place so I should have support all round the velodrome,” he said.
Jody will be in action in 1km trial on Friday (2pm) and then the pursuit qualifications are on Saturday morning (10.25) with the final at 3.15pm.