A physiotherapy student achieved a triple medal win for Britain at the World Para Athletics Championships in London on 14-23 July.
British champion Kadeena Cox during a training session
Athlete Kadeena Cox, who has multiple sclerosis (MS) and races in the T38 disability category, won gold in the 400 metres, silver in the 100 metres and bronze in the 200 metres.
Ms Cox, who lives in Leeds and studies at Manchester Metropolitan University, told Frontline: ‘It was a really good championships for me. It was a bit tricky, in terms of managing my condition and because I had an injury, so I was a little worried going out there.
‘I wanted to get three medals and I walked away with three, so I’m relatively happy with my performance – especially the 100 metres, as that came after the 400 metres when I had a bad night.
‘About eight weeks ago I picked up a hamstring injury, which was frustrating as I had to take time off and it’s given me constant pain. So it’s a credit to the team that they got me through.’
Her latest success follows an impressive performance at last year’s Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she won medals in two different sports – gold for track cycling and bronze for athletics.
But competing in London was a ‘totally different’ experience, as she explained: ‘This time the crowds were all cheering for us, whereas in Rio they were mostly cheering for the Brazilians.
‘To win a medal in front of a home crowd was amazing. The support we got, and the noise they made, was insane. It lifted you up, helped you down the track and made you want to get a medal.’
Balancing training and studies
Ms Cox, who is 26, begins her third year at university in September. Alongside her studies, she will continue to train for events such as next year’s Commonwealth Games in Australia.
She said that balancing both commitments could be tricky, but her university had been very supportive.
‘Last year they allowed me to defer for a year, so that I could focus on training for the Paralympic games. So I started back in March and went on my first placement in an elderly acute ward.
‘Due to my MS I do shorter placement days, which allows me time to recover and get my training sessions in. And I go to pre-placement meetings to talk about my condition, how it presents, how it affects my training and how that impacts on my working day.’
Neuro and paediatric physio
While she is continuing to strive for sporting success, Ms Cox is also looking forward to becoming a qualified physiotherapist.
‘I will probably end up specialising in neuro, and I’ve got a special interest in paediatrics as I’ve worked a lot with children with cerebral palsy,’ she said.
‘I’ve always had an interest in helping people and I spent quite a lot of time working in care homes and in specialist autistic centres, where I saw aspects of physios’ work and their role in rehabilitating people.
‘That ability to aid someone in that process, to help them do something they couldn’t do before, seemed like a very special thing to me and I really wanted to be able to do that.’
Dealing with dystonia
Ms Cox competed as an able-bodied athlete until 2014, when she had a stroke and was diagnosed with MS.
‘I have dystonia in my right side, so I have a lot of uncontrolled movements and spasms, which can get significantly bad, and weakness throughout that side,’ she said.
‘I also have burning, tingling sensations on the right side, and in other areas I have little or no sensation. But I’ve got so used to all the things I have to deal with that I don’t see them as issues anymore.’
About 150 physiotherapists volunteered to provide support to competitors at the Para Athletics Championships, as well as the International Association of Athletics Federation’s World Athletics Championships, which run from 4-13 August.
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