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CUNDY ON A MISSION TO BECOME FASTEST-EVER PARALYMPIC CYCLIST

1 Oct 2007

While Oscar Pistorious may be the fastest thing on no legs, Jody Cundy’s main mission is to become the fastest solo Paralympian on the cycling track.

The Swansea speed demon may only have been racing for two years, but he has already stormed onto the world stage, impressing disability sport chiefs en route and he is set to continue his golden career at the GB Cycling Nationals this week (2-6 October 2007).

In Bordeaux this summer, he smashed his own World record in the 1000m time trial, defending his world title. He celebrated with a second gold in the team sprint, again breaking the World record.

He is now one of Wales’ brightest medal prospects at next year’s Beijing Paralympics:

"I want to be the fastest Paralympic cyclist ever – no matter what category. We’re measured at altitude and sea-level and I’m already the fastest cyclist, irrespective of classification, at sea-level," explains Cundy, who turns 29 later this month.

"The profile of disability sport is improving. In terms of cycling, the likes of myself and a couple of others are helping as our times are coming down and are considered impressive on an able-bodied basis. If I could finish in the top ten of the able-bodied kilo [1000m time trial] next week, it would help open people’s eyes to our achievements."

It is this burning ambition which makes Cundy attack the steep cycling track at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour and is at the forefront of his mind when he is putting himself through a gruelling two hour sessions on the roads which stretch along the Gower.

He knows what it takes to get to the top. He can already boast three Paralympic golds and a bronze which were won in the pool. The swimmer-turned-cyclist admits he has enjoyed a straight-forward transition:

"I wouldn’t say it’s been easy, but let’s say it’s been smooth. It’s certainly not been without hard work. In my first nine months of cycling, I took nine seconds off in the kilo, broke the world record and won a world title.

"It’s because of this that some people think it’s easy which takes the shine off it a bit. But not many people who are able-bodied would be able to do a kilo in 1:10."

The GB Cycling Nationals – which also play host to Olympic heroes Chris Hoy, Jason Queally and Bradley Wiggins - will be something of a homecoming for the GB disability squad who returned from the UCI Para-Cycling World Championships in Bordeaux with 13 gold medals and in the no.1 spot of the medal table.

Cundy – who trains at Wales National Velodrome in Newport and is supported by Disability Sport Wales - has a tough week ahead as he has entered able-bodied events as well as disability. He will be lining up against the likes of Hoy and Queally in the time trial, the sprint and the team sprint.

He then takes on the flying 200m time trial and his favoured event, the kilo time trial, for riders with a disability. As Cundy is the World record holder, this would be considered routine for the Swansea talent. However, the races are pan-category which means they are measured on how close you get to the World record in your respective category – a tall order for a World record holder:

"In the disability events, I’ll be racing the likes of Barney Storey and Anthony Kappes plus Ellen Hunter and Aileen McGlynn on the tandems, and Darren Kenny from the CP3 class. They’re all World record holders in both the kilo and flying 200."

He explains that, naturally, his more a cyclist than he ever was a swimmer:

"My body shape is more that of a cyclist. But I’m also much more relaxed going into competition. I love the atmosphere of the cycling arena – I’m always really chilled before I race. Maybe it’s because there’s no call-up room. I used to hate the mind games that went on at the pool. In the Velodrome, I just switch off and warm up until two or three minutes before I race.

"Yet, there’s so much more that can go wrong on the track. The worst that can happen as a swimmer is if your goggles or cap snap! I like the time trial because if it goes wrong, it’s down to me and no-one else."

Girlfriend Liz Johnson, who shares a house with Cundy in Swansea, is also going for gold in Beijing. The swimmer from Newport won silver in Athens in the 100m breaststroke.

Cundy explains, "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!"