Kadeena Cox says slow pace of move towards equality in sport ‘frustrating’
Kadeena Cox is dreaming of the day she no longer feels the need to use her trailblazing sporting success as a reminder of the continued struggle for equality faced by disabled and minority athletes across the country.
The 32-year-old became the first British Paralympian to win gold medals in two separate sports in Rio in 2016 and is targeting a repeat of that momentous feat in Paris next year after narrowly missing out on an athletics medal in Tokyo.
But Cox feels the slow pace of change means she will once again be impelled to hijack her own headline-grabbing sporting feats to ensure that crucial messages about inclusion and acceptance are not snuffed out once the Paralympic flame is extinguished.
“It’s frustrating that we still feel like we have to take a stance, and that rather than our success being about success, it has to be about how we can change the sporting landscape for others,” Cox told the PA news agency.
“I love having the opportunity to help create those changes and I feel privileged to do so, but I’m hoping we have to take less of those moments. Hopefully years from now when I’ve got kids or my kids have got kids, they won’t ever have to think about these things.”
Cox, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2014, shot to fame in the wake of her exploits in Rio, in which she won gold medals in both the Velodrome and the athletics track.
She seized a string of high-profile opportunities, including appearances on Celebrity Mastermind, Celebrity Masterchef and I’m a Celebrity, in a bid to sustain the focus on the challenges facing ethnic minority and disabled athletes.
It's frustrating that we still feel like we have to take a stance, and that rather than our success being about success, it has to be about how we can change the sporting landscape for others
Cox is also working with the Sporting Equals charity as it prepares to relaunch its Sporting Equals Awards, previously the British Ethnic Diversity Sports Awards, in October for the first time since the covid pandemic.
It marks a significant moment for Cox, who believes much of the momentum regained in the wake of the covid pandemic has begun to slow.
“I feel like there was a really big push in the right direction post-lockdown, but we just seem to be going through a stagnant phase,” added Cox.
“Now that we’re not in that intense (pandemic) period and things have got back to normal, people seem to have forgotten about the struggles that some of us are facing, and have kind of gone back to being ignorant.
“Unfortunately, there’s still a lot more that needs to be done, whether that’s for a person who is from a black background, or from a disabled point of view. I still see issues from both of those perspectives.”
It is a message Cox knows she will be projecting for the remainder of her career, and if she realises her ambitions in Paris she will once again ensure plenty of opportunities to spread the word.
Despite undergoing hip surgery at the start of the year which forced her to sit out this month’s World Para Athletics Championships in Paris, Cox is determined to make up for the relative disappointment of missing out on a second double at the delayed Games in Japan.
“I want to do the double again in Paris because I want to put doing two sports to bed, because I’m getting older and it’s getting harder,” laughed Cox.
“I know I have the potential still to go out there and be the best in the world. The cycling is going well and I’m just getting back into running. Fingers crossed if I believe in myself and give my all for the next 12 months, it will be enough.”
:: The Sporting Equals Awards will take place on October 21 at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London
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