Kadeena Cox: Paralympic champion will 'grin and bear' her 'dodgy knee' to reach Tokyo

By Elizabeth HudsonBBC Sport
'It's my happy place' - Kadeena Cox on her love of baking
UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships
Venue: Apeldoorn, Netherlands Dates: 14-17 March

Paralympic champion Kadeena Cox is willing to "grin and bear" the pain from her "dodgy knee" as she targets the Tokyo Paralympics.

The 28-year-old became the first Briton since 1988 to win two golds in two different sports at the same Games with victories in athletics and cycling in Rio.

But her career came to a shuddering halt in December 2017 when she sustained a serious knee injury.

Over a year later and with the injury still causing problems but under control, she returned to major international cycling in style this week by taking 500m time trial gold at the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in the Netherlands.

Kadeena Cox
Cox warmed up for the Worlds with victory at the Track World Cup in London in December

"I want to come back with a bang," she told BBC Sport before her return the the track." I'd love to get back on to the world stage, take that rainbow jersey and lower my world record.

"I left cycling on a high note in Rio and I'd like to come back and be at the same place and remind everyone I am here to stay.

"I love the buzz of racing and being competitive and trying to push myself to be the best that I can be.

"I was off the bike for so long and I've feel like I've had to learn to ride all over again.

"But I've loved the challenge of coming back and finding the old Kadeena again."

Beating the pain

The injury was caused by, as Cox describes it, "a wobbly jump into the sandpit" during an athletics training session.

It led to damaged bone and cartilage and although she tried to play down its seriousness, she was forced to pull out of the England team for the Commonwealth Games and it left her questioning her future in elite sport.

The knee still causes her a certain amount of discomfort but she says she will battle through in order to achieve her goals.

"I had the option of surgery but we thought it would be better to manage it with injections and physio," she explained.

Kadeena Cox
Cox's last major international competition was the 2017 Para-athletics Worlds in London

"My physio said it could be a career-ending injury and even now when I do hard training, it flares up, which is frustrating.

"I'm going well in training but it hurts and I am having to grin and bear it.

"Cycling is a bit better because there isn't the impact you get with athletics.

"I want to get through another year and a half so I can run in Tokyo. I will deal with the pain and hopefully it won't get worse."

A busy life

Pain is something the Leeds woman has had to deal with for some time.

A promising non-disabled sprinter, she came to Para-sport after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in September 2014, shortly after having a stroke.

Her rise to the top in both sports has been meteoric and after winning gold in cycling's C4-5 500m time trial at the Rio Velodrome, four days later she took gold on the athletics track in the T38 400m and was the Great Britain flagbearer at the closing ceremony of the Games.

Kadeena Cox with her Rio Paralympic medals
Cox came away from the Rio Games with four medals in total

The time out from the sport coincided with the final year of her physiotherapy degree at Manchester Met University but although not being able to train left her with more time for her studies, focusing on just one thing, rather than the usual balance of training, college and life in general was more of a challenge.

She also used the opportunity to focus on strengthening her core in order to help her become more technically strong on the bike and on the track and worked more on understanding her body and her condition.

With the degree out of the way and now back in training, Cox fills her spare time with two new challenges - learning Spanish and doing a course in cake decoration.

"I just like to add a few extra things in," she said. "I finished my degree and realised I had a lot of free time on my hands. It felt really weird and I am so used to being on the go that I felt I needed it.

"I like the busyness of it and never like stopping. I just like being on the go."

Tokyo targets

While two sports are on the agenda for Cox at the 2020 Paralympics, the schedules are still to be finalised and the Velodrome in Tokyo is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the Olympic Stadium, which will host the athletics events.

But her hunger for more success is unquenched.

"I want more gold medals. I only got two in Rio so it would be nice to make it four," she said.

"I want to push the boundaries of what I can do.

"I'm just going to see what there is to challenge myself in a different way. I like a challenge and I like being able to prove to me and everyone else that I can do crazy things - even with a dodgy knee."

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