This week’s Woman of the Week is written by Iona MacPherson
October is Black History Month so I would like to start it off by writing this year’s first ‘Woman of the Week’ on an incredibly talented black woman (who you may have seen in this summer’s Paralympic games).
Kadeena Cox is a para-sport athlete who competes in the T37 sprint (on the track), as well as in para-cycling events. She was born in Leeds, to two Jamaican immigrants, in 1991 – however she was not born with her disability. She began her sporting career, playing hockey as a teenager, but then switched to athletics and sprinting when she was 15. In the following years she began to win medals in the sport – winning bronzes in both the Manchester Open and English Athletics Open Championships in 2007. Her track success continued and in 2012 she won bronze in the 200 metres at the BUCS Championships, which were held at the Olympic Stadium in London. A year later she broke the 12-second barrier in the 100 metres in the Northern Athletics Championships.
Her career was going well and she had even been in training for the Olympics when, in May 2014, she suffered a stroke. A few months later she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, meaning she now has to take “18 to 19 tablets a day, plus an injection every other day.” However, instead of giving up on sport, she decided to train for the Paralympics in two sports – cycling and track sprinting. She said, in recent interviews, that she doesn’t know whether she’ll be able to even compete in the Tokyo 2020 games, as multiple sclerosis is so poorly understood, so she decided to compete in two sports in Brazil 2016. It seems to have been a good decision on her part as, this summer, she won gold in both the cycling and athletics – as well as another silver and bronze in sprinting (something her coaches thought was borderline impossible). This also means she is the first British Paralympic athlete since 1988 to win medals in two sports. As well as these successes, in the Beijing 2022 Winter games, she wants to compete in the bobsleigh events.
As a black female, she hopes to inspire fellow black athletes, and many people have suggested that her success could encourage more black athletes to try both Olympic and Paralympic cycling – especially as there are currently no other black cyclists on the Olympic/Paralympic teams. Beyond the Paralympics, Kadeena wants to use her academic discipline in physiotherapy to set up her own neurophysiotherapy clinic, concentrating on children with cerebral palsy and seeing how sports can help them with mobility in their lives.