The parents of Paralympic cyclist, Jody Cundy, talk to Saga

By Jane Warren, Thursday 30 August 2012

Jody Cundy, 33, is one of a handful of athletes who has become Paralympic champion in two different disciplines. He won swimming gold in Atlanta and Sydney before switching sports in 2005 and picking up cycling gold three years later in Beijing. He was awarded an MBE in 2009 for his services to disability sport.
Ann and Alan Cundy © Levon BissAnn and Alan Cundy © Levon Biss

Jody grew up in Norfolk with his parents Alan, 64, a fitter-welder, and Ann, 58, an accountancy clerk, and younger brother Ashley.

Ann: It was a shock when Jody was born without a normal right foot. Instead, he had this tiny leg with two little toes. I feared he’d never lead a normal life, but nothing stopped Jody.

He started to walk at 13 months, and we’ve got photos of him at 18 months kicking a football. By the time he was three, it was obvious that his leg wasn’t growing. It was a big decision, but we were certain that amputation would make his life easier.

When he was five he almost drowned during his first school swimming lesson after he toppled over and couldn’t get up again, and we realised that he needed proper swimming lessons. He was soon learning butterfly. When he was 10, the parents of a girl who had a missing hand asked us if we knew about disability swimming. We then found out about it and got him involved, and he quickly broke all the records for his age group.

Jody Cundy © Press AssociationWe took him to the swimming pool four or five times a week, and he also spent a great deal of time training on a racing bike – we never imagined that one day he’d win medals for cycling too. Our lives revolved around Jody’s training programme, with weekends away competing, and 6am training sessions during term time. 

All of this made Jody realise that it is hard work if you want to get to the top – and always will be. It involved some sacrifice for us, but the rewards our support has given Jody make it all worthwhile. When we are invited to meet parents of babies with disabilities similar to Jody’s, we always assure them that their child will be able to realise their potential, just as he has.

Alan: Jody has always been strong-willed, so we used to sit him down and talk to him about what he could do. Whatever our boys wanted to do, we would help them, no matter what.

I would say, ‘At the end of the day, we can’t grow another leg, can we?’, but he has never let his disability stop him from doing anything. He would tear around the garden on a BMX bike as a kid, and he also played football, cricket and basketball. One day he was playing football and he had forgotten to tighten the strap that holds his leg on. He kicked the ball, which went one way, while his leg went the other. The expressions on the other team’s faces were fantastic.

It made us very proud when he was selected to go to the Beijing Olympics in the cycling team. And when he was awarded the MBE, it was the proudest day of our lives.

Jody has always been completely open about his disability. When he does talks in schools, all the kids want to see his artificial leg.

We have had to go without a lot of things at home, but you only get this chance once and we wanted to give him the best. I cannot explain to anyone how you feel as your son stands on the podium and the national anthem plays and the flag goes up.

Extracted from the full article, including interviews with the families of Louis Smith and Alison Williamson, published in the August 2012 issue of Saga Magazine. Subscribe today for more world-class writing delivered to your doorstep every month.

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