JODY Cundy struck bronze at the 2012 London Paralympics to continue his amazing record at the last five Games, but it only went some way to making up for the gold medal that slipped away.
The Walpole St Andrew cyclist claimed third place in the CA 4km pursuit on Saturday, but 24 hours earlier he was the unfortunate star of the most controversial incident in the London velodrome.
There was a sense of real injustice when Paralympic officials denied Cundy the chance of a re-race to defend his title in the 1km time trial last Friday afternoon.
The 33-year-old had looked forward to racing in front of a home crowd and it was taken away from him in an instant. He was the last of the competitors to take to the track and, as the 6,000 crowd supported him, his back wheel spun crazily as he exited the start gates. He immediately put his hand up to signify a false start and stopped pedalling assuming that he would be granted a restart.
The officials however saw things differently and considered it to be the British rider’s fault. Heated discussions followed between the British coaches and the commissars, but they would not be swayed and eventually the decision of disqualification was announced without the right of appeal, without studying TV footage which would surely have exonerated him.
Booing spread around the velodrome with the fans also chanting. “Let him ride, let him ride.”
Cundy, who had a leg amputated as a three-year-old, appeared unaware of the problem initially and had put his helmet back on and was ready to ride again when informed of the decision.
It was hardly Paralympian spirit and the Spanish did not cover themselves in glory either protesting immediately against a re-race for Cundy, who was the only cyclist left to stop their Alfonso Cabello claiming the gold medal. Another Briton Jon-Allan Butterworth took the silver medal in 1min 05.985secs.
The pent-up frustration of four years’ training exploded. Cundy yelled, he swore, he hurled a water bottle. He had to be dragged to a tunnel under the track, where he raged and cursed some more.
He shouted: “You can’t do this, I’ve worked all my life for this. I fell out of the gate because the f****** gate didn’t open. I’ll never get the opportunity again to win a gold medal in a home Games. “
He later apologised and commented: “I lost it. I’m not proud of it but the amount of hard work and effort that goes into it, I was pretty angry. I said a few choice words over and over again pretty much at the top of my voice. I didn’t know what to do. It was pure anger as I wanted to experience that roar.”
In two other similar instances in the velodrome on the same day contestants were allowed a re-race, but this time the official decided it was appropriate to throw out the defending champion.
Later in a more sombre mood Cundy, who began his Paralympic career as a swimmer before switching to cycling over six years ago, complained of the ambiguity of the starting rules and stated that they need to be looked at.
But he was back in the velodrome less than 24 hours later to contest the 4km pursuit and had to put all the heartache of the previous day behind him as he showed great determination and character to ride a personal best to get a place in the ride off for the bronze medal and he was agonisingly close to going for gold but Romanian Carol Edward Novak and the Czech Jiri Kezek who had finished ahead of him at the world championships earlier in the year, were to contest that.
His frustrations were duly taken out on the unfortunate Diego Gomez. Cheered on by a noisy partisan crowd Cundy caught the Colombian in just five of the 16 scheduled laps, which automatically ends a pursuit race.
Cundy said: “We decided to go for it from the start and I think I went a little bit too fast but I just didn’t want to do the 16 laps gain. It hurt way too much.”
In the first 1,000m of his pursuit he clocked 1:05.317 minutes, which was fast enough to have won Friday’s 1km gold medal, an event he has not suffered defeat in since 2006 and Cundy added: “It’s reassuring that my form’s there. I was in good shape for the gold medal in the kilo and I was kind of robbed, but there we go, I have now got a bronze medal and I’ll treat that as my gold.”
Last week Cundy had said he would wait a couple of years before deciding on Rio in 2016, but he has more motivation now and stated: “I’ll have to do another four years now because there’s a kilo title with my name on it. And I want it back.”
Who would bet against Cundy adding to his three Paralympic swimming golds and two cycling golds in Brazil.