27 August 2023

Jody Cundy: Opening up, facing fears and Strictly Come Dancing

Seven-time Paralympian Jody Cundy reflects on the most challenging period of his sporting life and also looks ahead to facing his fears on Strictly Come Dancing.

“I really struggled for motivation after the Tokyo Paralympic Games. I had illness and injury and was off the bike for five to six months just losing fitness and gaining weight. For the first time in my life my motivation just disappeared.

“I had been working through some personal issues and also struggling mentally. At the National Track Championships last January I was so far away from where I wanted to be I wondered if I could even keep going.

“Following the Championships I posted on Instagram saying I needed help to get back to the old me. I had such an incredible outpouring of support and even heard from people I had not heard from since school - it was really endearing and made me realise I wasn’t on my own. I had more interaction after that post than even winning gold medals at a Paralympic Games!”

Speaking out: Jody on Instagram

“There’s also been massive help from people behind the scenes - my fiancée and family have been really supportive in trying to get me back to the Jody Cundy they know.

“British Cycling were really good at supporting on my mental health and we just tried to get some consistency back in my life and get the training back - it was just about basically lining everything up and getting in to a routine again. The overriding thing I learned was to trust in the process.

“You don’t want anybody to go through those hardships but I am definitely better off for having done so. It is good to discover different things about yourself and different ways of reacting; I think it has made me a better athlete.

“When things are going wrong in your life and training wise it’s really hard to work out what you need to fix, simple things like routine and checking in with people regularly just to make sure everything is on track can really help.

“Paris 2024 will be my eighth Paralympic Games and will be the toughest one yet as even qualifying will probably be the biggest task for next year. Given the talent in British Cycling, winning a world title still doesn’t guarantee you selection.”

“When I went to my first Paralympic Games in 1996 I never dreamt I would still be racing now. I just love competing – I love racing, that is what draws me back every time. It gets harder and harder each year as you set yourself new goals – every time you achieve something you have to move on and set a new target.

“It’s maintaining that feeling of being at the top as it’s such a good feeling. I will be 45 years old at Paris so that will likely be my last Games and it would be nice to go out at the top.”

"SEVEN" time Paralympian gears up for Strictly

“With Strictly Come Dancing it was about getting the right opportunity – the phone call came in and I thought this is an opportunity to help raise the profile of Paralympic sport, disability and myself ahead of the Games.

“I am looking forward to learning a new skill as I enjoy doing something I don’t know how to do and trying to perfect it. I am focussed on staying in the process long enough so I can start perfecting it and actually look like I know what I am doing! The scariest part will be going through that journey with millions of people watching on TV as I am a person who is literally dragged on to the dance floor at the very last minute.

“I am putting myself out there because I am the kind of person who in the past has been reluctant – I am going to make the most of this opportunity to kick start a new openness and willingness to do things.

“People are constantly surprised when they see the Paralympics and what disabled people can do. For myself to be on one of the biggest shows on the BBC with a disability and showing what I can do and that it is not a limiting factor is a pretty special opportunity.”

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