Rio Paralympics 2016: Kadeena Cox's tireless pursuit of sprint and cycling glory

Cox raps Fresh Prince & talks Rio in Nikki Fox's Car Share
Paralympic Games on the BBC
Venue: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Dates: 7-18 September Time in Rio: BST -4
Coverage: Live updates, video clips, medal table, results and news alerts, catch-up service, plus commentary on BBC Radio 5 live. Television coverage on Channel 4.

Britain's Kadeena Cox had always set her sights on the Rio Games.

But the budding sprinter's Olympic ambitions were dashed in 2014 when she had a stroke and was subsequently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

It forced her to focus on the Paralympics instead and it has certainly paid dividends in Rio with two world records, two gold medals - and two more events to go as she makes her mark in both athletics and cycling.

Cox admitted: "Without my sport I would have crumbled. I was driven to succeed and it made me battle through the tough times."

Despite the diagnosis, Cox was able to continue running, albeit with slower times, and in addition the 25-year-old took up track cycling as it aided her recovery.

"I got straight back into running, I just couldn't deal with how slow I was going," the Leeds Paralympian said.

"But then taking on the cycling helped that a lot."

Cox took gold in Rio in the T38 400m on Wednesday, four days after winning track cycling C4-5 time-trial gold and five days after winning T38 100m bronze.

On Thursday, she will race in event number four in the T35-38 4x100m relay, two days before getting back on the bike in the C4-5 road race.

All this while managing a condition that causes fatigue and is likely to worsen over time.

So why did she take on two sports?

"I'm not very good at making decisions," she laughed. "They said to me 'you can do one sport now and one in Tokyo in 2020' and I said 'I don't know where I'm going to be at in Tokyo'."

"My condition is so changeable that we could go to Tokyo and I might not even be classifiable, never mind what I am now.

"If I can do it again in four years' time, I'll happily do it."

Cox, who runs for Sale Harriers near Manchester, had been a promising able-bodied sprinter running a personal best 11.93 seconds in the 100m in 2013.

But in May 2014, and then again in September the same year, she was taken to hospital after experiencing numbness in her limbs.

"I went into hospital with left-side weakness and speech problems and was diagnosed with a stroke," she said.

"And then I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis."

Cox remained committed to athletics and while her times understandably dropped, running is what her body told her to do.

"I think because I was an athlete beforehand, I run quite well because it's muscle memory," she said.

"But then you see me walking and you think 'what the hell happened to her? How did she run like that and then walk like that?'

Where does cycling come in?

Cox's coaches pointed her towards the bike, noting her impressive leg power - within 18 months she was one of the best track para-cyclists in the world.

And her success in Rio comes despite being moved into classifications for less impaired competitors in both athletics and cycling.

Cox's Rio schedule

  • Thu, 8 Sept - T38 100m heats - sets a personal best of 12.98secs
  • Fri, 9 Sept - T38 100m final - wins bronze
  • Sat, 10 Sept - C4-5 track cycling time trial - wins gold in world record time
  • Wed, 14 Sept - T38 400m final - wins gold in world record time
  • Thu, 15 Sept - T35-38 4x100m relay
  • Sat, 18 Sept - C4-5 cycling road race

She describes her mum as her "rock",external-link but also as "the most embarrassing person in the world" during competitions - screaming, filming videos, jumping around.

Cox's exploits in Rio might well have sent mum to the moon and back.

Ludicrously, there could be a third sport on the horizon for Cox, who had been bidding for a place on the GB skeleton programme at the time of her illness.

"I would do the two-man bobsleigh," she told the Guardian, a few days before bobsleigh was provisionally approved for the 2022 Winter Paralympics.

But that's years away - first there is the small matter of trying to turn three Paralympics medals into five, having already matched the achievement of Britain's Isabel Barr (later Newstead) in 1984 by winning medals in more than one sport at one Games.

"I've got two more events and it is tough. I'm feeling good and I'm ready to go for the next one, believe it or not," she said after securing 400m gold.

"I'm excited - there's an opportunity to get more medals and I already have three. How have I done that?"

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