Redemption for Jody Cundy four years on from London 2012 tantrum
Redemption. A wrong corrected, if you like, in the eyes of Jody Cundy.
And 1,470 days after his bid for Paralympic gold on home soil ended in controversial fashion, the 37-year-old from Wisbech won the C4/C5 one-kilometre time-trial in Rio.
“I fell out of the gate because the f****** gate didn’t open,” Cundy said.
“I wanted to go and do a 1:03 in there and destroy everyone in front of a 6,000 home crowd. I’ll never ever get this opportunity again. Never, ever.”
He had been unbeaten in the kilo since 2006 and was the world record holder. London was his moment, at his fifth Paralympics, but a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was thwarted.
Those explosive words came shortly before 1600BST on August 31, 2012 at the London 2012 velodrome and were a seminal moment for Paralympic sport.
Cundy’s tantrum, which included hurling invective and water bottles in the direction of the officials who had ruled he had failed to complete his race, shocked those new to the Paralympics. They sat up and took notice - this is sport and these athletes want to win as much as anyone else.
Cundy has acknowledged as much. “I took one for the team,” he said.
Once he calmed down, with the help of team psychiatrist Professor Steve Peters, Cundy immediately refocused on Rio.
His prosthetic leg, which attaches to his pedal and was made for London 2012, has been repainted with a treasure hunt design.
“I remembered when I used to go to the beach as a kid and the way I’d walk with my foot and the stump would leave a specific kind of pattern,” said Cundy, who was born with a deformed right foot, which was amputated at the age of three.
“My mum and dad used to say it looked like a pirate’s peg-leg and that kind of stuck in my head.”
As well as a map charting the route across the Atlantic from London to Rio, Cundy’s Paralympic achievements are drawn on. There is a question mark by Rio 2016.
Cundy’s first Paralympics was as a swimmer in Atlanta in 1996. He competed in three Games in the pool, winning three gold medals - including two 100m butterfly titles - and two bronzes.
A track taster session in Newport saw Cundy make the switch to cycling in 2006, following Dame Sarah Storey in switching sports. Storey had made the move months earlier.
Cundy won his first two Paralympic gold medals on the bike - and fourth and fifth in all - in Beijing.
He responded from his London disappointment with bronze in the 4km individual pursuit, but he always spoke of unfinished business in the event he regarded as his.
And now he has belatedly claimed the gold he so desperately wanted four years ago.