Jody Cundy: "It's my turn now"
In the bowels of Manchester Velodrome Jody Cundy curves effortlessly around the track. As he climbs its bank his breath rhythmically rises and falls, deepening as he gathers pace. Today this cauldron lies almost empty – its eeriness punctuated by the echo of coaches calling times and the hum of a motorbike keeping pace.
But this week Cundy will feel the reverberations of a crowd willing him to win in the same London Velodrome in which training mate Chris Hoy scooped his sixth Olympic gold just three weeks ago.
“It’s a great motivational tool,” says the 33-year-old. “I’ve got these images in my head of Usain Bolt flying down the 100 metres and Chris Hoy coming over the top of the sprint, and I think – it’s my turn now.”
Paralympic cycling was almost an afterthought for Cundy. Having won 23 medals during a 10-year swimming career, the Cambridge-born athlete moved from the water and on to two wheels seven years ago after being spotted by a coach at a cycling open day in Newport. With a new sport came a new way of competing. This time, Cundy had to consider a fourth limb – his prosthetic leg – as he powered his way to front place in the cycling sprints.
An amputee from the age of three, Cundy says the support of his family allowed him to pursue his sporting goals. “I’ve never thought of myself as disabled,” he says.
“I train alongside Olympians and each time I train it’s about closing the gap on them. It’s a lovely carrot to be chasing and I never think of myself as different.” In the run-up to London 2012 Cundy’s life has been reduced to seconds and milliseconds: “Everything is planned. Even my food is timed on race days.”
He recalls the world championships in 2006 where he debuted. “I walked up to the track and was laughed at because I had this NHS leg that looked battered. I crashed on the first start and went on the second. People were thinking, who’s this joker?” It was Cundy, though, who had the last laugh. Soon after he flew out of the start gate he broke the world record.
“That feeling of going from underdog to top of the world in a few minutes was great. I thought my dad was going to have a heart attack, it was so nerve-wracking.”
Cundy has even higher hopes for London 2012. His sleek prosthetic leg has been perfected since he bagged gold in Beijing for the 1km time trial and team sprint. Made by the same team that make runner Oscar Pistorius’ blades, it’s aerodynamic and acts as a vacuum on Cundy’s stump, minimising the power lost to his leg or his bike.
“I want to open the eyes of able-bodied people as well as Paralympians,” he says. “Nobody is limited by their disability, but only inspired by their imagination.”