CUNDY AIMS TO DEFEND WORLD TITLE AHEAD OF BEIJING
15 Aug 2007
This time last year Wales’ Jody Cundy was the new boy at the World Championships. But smashing the world record and claiming the World number one spot will mean that things will be a little different this time around for the Swansea swimmer-turned-cyclist.
Cundy makes his second appearance at the UCI Para-Cycling Championships in Bordeaux next week (19-27 August 2007). Twelve months ago, he seized the world title in the men’s LC2 kilometre time trial with just a year’s experience of track cycling under his belt.
Shaving a further 1.5 seconds off his record just four weeks later and then another 1.2 seconds at the World Cup back in May, the 29-year old, who boasts three Paralympic golds and a bronze from Atlanta, Sydney and Athens in swimming, is now having to come to terms with being race favourite:
"Am I feeling the pressure? I am and I’m not. I know who I’m up against now but I also know how well I’m racing. I just need to do the race I know I’m capable of. Last year, I was brand new to the scene but of course this time I’ll be going off last in the queue and, hopefully, keeping the number one spot," Cundy explained.
Of course, there’s the added load that the Beijing Paralympics is just around the corner:
"This is the last big major before Beijing. There is talk of a European Championships in Germany at the start of the year but I’m not sure if it’ll come off. Bordeaux is a big qualification point for us – to be on the Paralympic squad you have to be a top three finisher at the Worlds. If you perform well here, it’s almost like booking your ticket to Beijing."
Cundy, who joins four other Welsh riders in the GB squad at the UCI Para-Cycling Championships, was plucked from the pool to test his nerve at track cycling less than two years ago. He stormed onto the world stage and is now a very realistic medal contender in Beijing.
He started riding at the Wales National Velodrome in Newport with coach Neil Smith after attending his first track trials in December 2005.
Anthony Hughes, Performance Manager of the Federation of Disability Sport in Wales, admits that it has not been easy as it looks for the former swimmer:
"Jody’s turned a few heads but it’s not an easy transition. Adjustments to his training programme, competition and lifestyle are a huge ask but Jody has risen to it.
"For amputees making a transition out of wet sport like swimming, onto a bike or onto the track where they get a tremendous amount of resistance and pounding on their residual limb - that is in itself a huge obstacle to deal with," adds Hughes.
Cundy does believe, however, that he is "more naturally a cyclist than a swimmer". He also gets plenty of support from long-term girlfriend Liz Johnson who won silver in the pool at the Athens Paralympics:
"We live together in Swansea but now we’re in different sports, we hardly see each other! We’re always away at different times. Then we’ll be back but one us will be packing our bags and heading off somewhere else. If we’re both in Beijing, I’m not sure we’ll actually get to spend any time together – the Velodrome is 16km from the pool!"
What we can be sure of though is that Cundy is set to go the distance on the track.
Britain is sending their biggest ever disability cycling squad to Bordeaux. Great Britain won 14 medals - including nine golds - at last year's World Championships in Switzerland.
For more information, please contact Jane Williams at FDSW on
Rachel Morris, 28, is set to be one of the riders lining up at London’s Velopark in 2012.
Morris, who hails from Pembrokeshire, is a hand cyclist and has been fast tracked by the GB team as a potential 2012 competitor. The GB team spotted her skills her in 2006 and she has since competed on the European Circuit and in Canada.
She is a double above the knee amputee. This means she has to sit back in her cycle rather than forward as most cyclists would.
Disability Sport Wales Performance Manager Anthony Hughes explains, "Rachel likes to attack the track at extreme speed, especially over flat and smooth tracks.
Her main focus is to make the Paralympic Games in Beijing having rapidly risen in the world ranking over the last 12 months.
Morris was introduced to cycling after hearing of the opportunities available in Wales for new riders which had been created by Disability Sport Wales and coach Neil Smith.
Discipline: Pilot guide to visually impaired rider
Ellen believes that her husband Paul has been the main driving force in her cycling career – their first date was actually spent on the back of a bike!
Since then, they have both firm fixtures on the IPC cycling scene. They were both selected as part of the British cycling team at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens - the pair riding as pilot guides to visually impaired cyclists.
Ellen, 39, competed in the women’s tandem races piloting Scotland’s Aileen McGlynn at the Olympic Velodrome.
Ellen’s presence at the Athens Games was particularly remarkable as not long before, she broke her back in a cycling accident at the Women’s Omnium at Herne Hill, Kent, and was told she may never cycle again. During her six weeks in hospital, she read multi-winning Tour De France champion, Lance Armstrong’s autobiography which, she claims, provided her with the strength and courage to be a better and stronger cyclist than ever before.
Hunter and McGlynn powered to a new world record in the kilometre time trial tandem at the UCI World Cycling Championships in Aigle in 2006. It was Wales’ second rainbow jersey at the event as Jody Cundy also delivered a World record-breaking performance.
Chinese cyclists are continually threatening the GB tandem duo, but while their rivals may continue to improve, Hunter from Box Lane, Wrexham, is continuing to grow and develop under a new training structure.
Hunter’s trophy cabinet also boasts gold from the 2006 VISA Paralympic World Cup, where she raced furiously to beat the cream of disability cycling from Australia, China, America and Germany.
Bridgend’s Simon Richardson is a newcomer to the international circuit. His first outing in a Welsh jersey was in May 2006 at the Welsh Grand Prix at the Wales National Velodrome in Newport.
Fast forward 12 months, he’s finishing seventh in the road race and fifth in the time trial behind Paralympic cycling champion and World number one Darren Kenny at an international meeting in France (June 2007).
Last month (July 2007), he travelled to Germany to compete in the Para-Cycling Europa Cup where he finished seventh in the LC3 category and 12th in the road race.
The race was useful preparation for the rider ahead of making his debut at the World Championships.
Richardson is certainly a name to watch in the future. He will feature on the road and on the track in Bordeaux.
Richardson has developed through the Disability Sport Wales Performance Programme. He trains intensively under the wing of coach Courtney Rowe
From: Llantwit Major
Discipline: LC1 Rider - single arm amputee
Russell has been riding for 15 years. Disability Sport Wales Performance Manager Anthony Hughes explains, "He’s a very strong rider, enjoys leading a pack of cyclists and is always ready to make himself a challenge to ride past.
"Russell enjoys hill training in the Brecon Beacons and in Merthyr Tydfil, this improves his strength and ability to make strong breaks from the pack of cyclists," adds Hughes.
In May this year, the 33-year-old narrowly missed out on selection for Visa Paralympic World Cup. In July, however, he headed to Holzkirchen, a quick commute from the centre of Munich, to compete in the Para-Cycling Europa Cup.
White clinched his qualifying time in Germany with a respectable 31.23 to finish ninth in the 22km Time Trial.
"Going to the Worlds will give Russell the opportunity to gain as many International ranking points as possible," says Hughes. "Whether Russell competes at the Beijing Paralympics or not hinges on his performance in Bordeaux. Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that there are more cyclists challenging for a place in the GB squad for Beijing than there are places."
White competes in the LC1 category (athletes with upper limb disability) which is extremely competitive.