Rio Paralympics: Kadeena Cox on helping others, future goals and the ‘Kadeena the machiner’ myth

12 September 2016

by Barney Cullum

History was made here in Rio this weekend as Kadeena Cox became the first British Paralympian to win medals across two different sports at the same games for almost 30 years.

Sprint-cycling two laps of the velódromo in a world record time that left Dame Sarah Storey — Britain’s most successful female Paralympian — trailing behind, she almost made her second event look easy.

It came just 24 hours after her first, where she won bronze in the athletics stadium in her 100 metres event.

Kadeena Cox with her Rio 2016 gold medal

(Photo by onEdition)

Kadeena the machiner

‘I don’t know how she does it,’ Storey said afterwards. ‘Kadeena the machiner’ was trending on Twitter as we spoke.

Both are compliments of course, borne out of respect for a double-event achievement that is so unusual. There is great admiration for the Leeds-based athlete’s technique, leg-power and acceleration too.

‘To be here and to have actually done it, I feel like a weight’s come off my shoulders.

‘I’ve been so emotional. Every time I’ve even thought about being on the podium I’ve almost cried.’ — Kadeena Cox

When the moment arrived and the national anthem played, the tears did flow. After embracing the Chinese cyclists who finished second and third, her shoulders collapsed and the full stadium saw that weight removed.

Perhaps it was the adrenaline releasing having had to stay steeled for so long.

Kadeena has multiple sclerosis. Her health was assessed by Paralympic classifiers at an international cycling event earlier this year and she was unexpectedly moved into a far tougher level of competition.

‘Then, when my classification changed for a second time, in athletics, people thought I was going to quit.’

What next for Kadeena?

Having achieved her dream of medalling in two sports, she is now beginning to look to the future and a career outside of sport.

‘The world athletics championships are in London next year but I haven’t made any decisions beyond that.’

‘I’m going back to university after Rio. I have an exam due in November so I have to! My main goal is to qualify as a physiotherapist.’

Having got to know Kadeena this year, it’s no surprise she’s committed to a vocation that involves helping others achieve greater independence through improved physical health.

The 25-year-old is currently helping Leonard Cheshire Disability with a fundraising campaign to increase opportunities for disabled people to access sport and exercise.

Perhaps not a machine, but Kadeena’s a dedicated competitor, student and charity ambassador. However she decides to prioritise her time after London 2017, her achievements this week underline she will give all she has.

Barney Cullum is a freelance journalist — covering the games for a range of organisations — and is an external communications officer for Leonard Cheshire Disability. A version of this article also appears on PosAbility.

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