Jaco Van Gass jokes gold-winning team are better colleagues than Prince Harry

The former soldier was joined by the Duke of Sussex on a trek to the North Pole.

Jaco Van Gass, Kadeena Cox and Jody Cundy
Jaco Van Gass, Kadeena Cox and Jody Cundy

Afghanistan veteran Jaco Van Gass joked that Kadeena Cox and Jody Cundy were better team-mates than the Duke of Sussex following a phenomenal sprint gold in Tokyo.

The inspirational Great Britain trio overturned a final-lap deficit to top the podium in the mixed C1-5 event in a global-best time ahead of world champions China.

For Van Gass the thrilling success was a third medal – and second gold – in three days of an exceptional Paralympics debut.

The Duke of Sussex
The Duke of Sussex accompanied Jaco Van Gass on his expedition to the North Pole (Peter Nicholls/PA)

The 35-year-old lost his left arm while serving with the Parachute Regiment in 2009 but has recovered form a series of life-changing injuries to complete some astonishing challenges, including trekking to the North Pole, an expedition joined by Prince Harry.

Asked how Cox and Cundy compare to the Queen’s grandson as colleagues, he replied: “They’re much better!

“No, he (Harry) is a good lad and very down to earth. I like a little team environment.

“I mean they (Cox and Cundy) are both the best athletes in the world: to be part of a team with these guys is unbelievable. It actually brings a lot of pressure as well, we needed it to go right.

“To see the experience of Jody and that performance from Kadeena – that first lap in the qualifying she was just like a Formula One car, she just pulled off.

“I think it’s the common interest of giving our best, being the best athlete and the best individuals that we are. And that came together as a team today.”

Victory for the inspirational threesome in 47.579 seconds capped an unforgettable day for GB’s cyclists in the Izu Velodrome, which brought five medals in total, including golds for visually impaired husband and wife Neil and Lora Fachie in separate events.

Cox, Van Gass and Cundy – victors by just over a tenth of a second from the Chinese – were confirmed as a team for the rapid 750m discipline following the 2020 world championships.

Training time since was severely limited due to the coronavirus pandemic, while they have come from diverse backgrounds to form a formidable crew.

Cox – who has multiple sclerosis – was born in Leeds to Jamaican parents, former soldier Van Gass left his home country of South Africa aged 20 to pursue a military career, and Games veteran Cundy hails from Cambridgeshire and had his deformed right foot amputated when he was three years old.

Dual-sport athlete Cox, who will now turn her attention to retaining athletics T38 400m gold next week, said: “It’s unity in diversity, isn’t it?

“It doesn’t matter what your background is, where you come from, whether you’ve gained a disability or were born with a disability, we’re just amazing athletes. That’s it.

Kadeena Cox
Kadeena Cox claimed her second gold medal of the Games (ParalympicsGB/PA)

“If you can put aside all the other stuff, you can unify it and be amazing. That’s what we proved today.”

Spain took bronze and, while it was a mixed event, 30-year-old Cox was the only woman to win a medal.

“It was so good to have a female on the podium. That female just happened to be me. But it’s great to see,” she said.

“It’s a mixed team sprint and I think it should be mixed. It’s nice to be a woman in there.

“The Chinese guys are amazing, they beat us at worlds and doing world records, but I’ve got two amazing guys beside me and I knew with them we could absolutely nail it.”

Former swimmer Cundy, 42, now has 12 Paralympic medals across seven Games and the two sports.

“We did lots of good efforts in training but we’d never had that one where we’d gone, you know what, we’ve nailed it, perfected everything,” he said

“And today is the first day that I think we’ve done the perfect start, the perfect second lap and perfect finish – with perfect changeovers in the middle. We couldn’t have asked for any more.”

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