Double Paralympic champion Kadeena Cox is delighted that the honesty she showed in sharing the details of her on-going battle with an eating disorder is inspiring women across the sporting world.
Cox, who at Rio 2016 became the first female British Paralympian in 32 years to win gold medals in two different sports at a single Games, revealed in April that she suffers from crippling mental health issues. And she can barely believe the reaction she has received in the five months since.
“What got me was the amount of athletes who said they were in the same situation. I didn’t realise how many other athletes struggled,” Cox said, moments after running her first 400m in almost two years at the recent Paris 2019 World Para Athletics Grand Prix.
“I got so many messages from other athletes who were struggling or have struggled with the same thing. That has made me want to keep speaking about it because I feel the more it is spoken about, the more awareness we can raise and the more support we can get,” she added.
The 28 year old knows her revelations surprised many, coming just a month after she won time-trial gold at the 2019 Para-Cycling World Championships. Strikingly, she somewhat shares such surprise.
“There were a lot of people who felt really bad actually. Cycling Worlds was when I was at the leanest and smallest I have been and loads of people were like ‘Oh you look great!’,” she recalled.
“And when the article came out they were all like ‘Oh I am so sorry; I didn’t realise what you were going through’. But it’s a double-edged sword, because that is sort of where I want to be. I like people telling me that I look good but are they then fuelling that negative thing I shouldn’t be doing?”
It is a relentlessly tough challenge to face, but in typical Cox style she is attempting to tackle it head-on. In the months after she told the world, the British athlete dived head-first into treatment, taking on a psychiatric coach among other things.
The results were swift and encouraging but then came her highly anticipated return to the track after almost two years out injured.
Cox travelled to the Paris Grand Prix primarily in order to secure a qualifying time for the Dubai 2019 World Championships next month.
“In the lead-up to the competition with the pressures of having to qualify, the pressure I was putting on myself, the injury and all the stresses that come with being an elite athlete, I have actually ended up in quite a low place,” Cox said.
She ran 1:02.97 in her 400m T38 heat – comfortable enough to secure her spot in Dubai.
Onwards and upwards
The honesty continued with Cox happy to talk about how she has attempted to ride out those debilitating feelings.
“The fact I am able to talk about it now shows how far I have come, but there is still probably quite a way to go, in not starving myself,” she said.
“It is frustrating when I do get to the point, like the last few weeks, where I do come back down because I feel like I am making so much progress and then there is this blip. But I think the realisation that is going to happen is good.”
With such grounded sentiments keeping her steady, Cox is keen to head to Dubai and show the world that she is still the person to beat in her favoured event. Then, she has plans for a double-double in Tokyo and already has an eye on the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics.
Cox is desperate to try a winter sport and, at this stage, Para snowboard is her favourite.
“I love it, absolutely love it, the challenge of pushing myself is what I live for,” Cox said, a huge grin returning to her face.
The Dubai 2019 World Para Athletics Championships kicks off on 7 November. Great Britain’s full squad can be found here.