ParalympicsGB can hit another new high at Tokyo 2020 says Cundy
Jody Cundy has challenged his fellow Great Britain Paralympic stars to carry the momentum from their Rio heroics towards Tokyo 2020 and beyond.
ParalympicsGB, fielding 264 athletes in 19 of the 22 sports, finished second in the medal table to China, winning 64 gold medals and 147 in all over 11 days of competition.
There were 119 British medallists, 44 of them multi-medallists. Five British females - cyclist Dame Sarah Storey, swimmer Bethany Firth, wheelchair racer Hannah Cockroft and equestrian riders Sophie Christiansen and Natasha Baker - won three gold medals.
Cundy won two gold medals on the cycling track in his sixth Games, four years on from ignominy in London when he exploded into a fit of rage at officials for denying him a restart in his favourite one-kilometre time-trial discipline.
That was a seminal moment for Paralympic sport as the watching public realised Paralympians were elite, success-hungry sports stars first and foremost.
The 37-year-old from Wisbech won his first gold medal as a swimmer in Atlanta in 1996 and has competed in three Games in the pool and three on the bike, so he is ideally placed to appraise Britain.
And Cundy, now a seven-time Paralympic champion, believes ParalympicsGB can build on the phenomenal success of Rio 2016.
“I don’t know whether or not a medal haul like this is ever going to be possible again,” said Cundy.
“But then we didn’t think a medal haul like Beijing (in 2008) was going to be possible, like London (2012).
“Each time we think it’s not possible, we come back and do bigger and better things.
“It’s very hard to improve on what we’ve done - you look at the amount of medals we’ve won and it’s staggering numbers - it’s just about continuing that momentum.
“The rest of the world will learn how to do it all. But while we know how to do it and we keep staying ahead of everybody, we can still stay world leaders.
“And yes sports will get stronger, depths of field are getting stronger.
“But we obviously know what we’re doing at the top so we’ve just got to keep continuing that through.”
Britain’s Paralympic professionalism was behind the results, Cundy believes, and the system allows the athletes to do their best. This time they delivered, to a man, woman and horse.
With talent identification programmes, more athletes, across more sports and classifications, could be found. That could enhance Britain’s medal count.
China, with a vast disabled population of 83 million, has competitors in most categories, which part explains the extraordinary haul of 239 medals, 107 of them gold, from the Games’ 528 events.
Britain’s medal haul was their third highest in the history of the Paralympic Games, which formally began in 1960 in Rome, having had origins at Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire.
Britain won gold medals in 11 different sports - archery, athletics, boccia, cycling, canoeing, equestrian, rowing, swimming, table tennis, triathlon and wheelchair tennis - and that equalled the record held by China from the 2008 Games in Beijing.
And in total they won medals in 15 sports - powerlifting, sailing, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair fencing the additional four - to match the record the United States set in Athens in 2004.
Cundy added: “The amount of medals we’ve won has been truly staggering and to be part of the team I’m immensely proud.
“You kept turning on the TV in the athletes village to see athletics winning, swimming winning, archery winning. They were all chipping in at some point.
“The performances have been outstanding. People can say about Russia not being there or whatever, but there’s a lot of performances where even if Russia would have been there, we’d still have had a massive amount of gold medals.
“To be part of that and to do it post-London - a home Games - it just shows that that momentum we built in London and the education for the whole Paralympic movement has really moved forwards.
“Hopefully now people see Paralympic sport in an even better light and now we’re back we can start building to Tokyo, educate even more people and look to even more success up to that and onwards.”