Cyclist Cody Jung Is Primed For A Good Showing In Paralympic Debut, But He’s Most Ready For The Experience
by Joanne C. Gerstner
Cody Jung competes in the MC4 29.1 kilometer time trial at the 2021 U.S. Paralympic Team Trials on June 19, 2021 in Minneapolis.
The moment Cody Jung has been training for is so close, like a child knowing it is 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve. The anticipation is visceral, and the moment that only lingered in the imagination is appearing as true.
Jung, a rookie Paralympian in cycling, is ready to hit the road course at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 and see what happens. The 29-year-old from San Diego is set to make his debut Tuesday in the men’s time trial C4, on the hilly and technical course in the shadow of Mount Fuji. He’ll then be back on Friday for the men’s road race C4-5, where he’ll be racing alongside teammate Chris Murphy.
While Jung races solo in the time trial, Murphy is planning to aid and push him to a strong finish in the road race. But no matter what happens, Jung said the journey to this important moment is his present.
“I’m keeping my head down right now for that next step, the race, and just thinking of the process,” Jung said. “I’ve had the opportunity to race at a really high level the last couple of years, and I’ve learned that it is important to have a process with your family, your coach, your spirituality — which for me is super important — and your training.
“That process has been the biggest part of my success, and I’ve really particularly enjoyed it the past two months since the trials. I’ve just been working good, hard training blocks and getting dialed in. I feel really good and feel very blessed right now.”
Jung comes into the time trial with some momentum, having taken silver at the world championships in June in Portugal before turning around just a few days later with a blazing time at the U.S. trials in Minneapolis.
Jung, who was born with cerebral palsy on his left side, rides with able-bodied and adaptive cycling teams to push his skill and training. He feels ready for the technical course at Fuji International Speedway, despite having limited time to train on it because of the tight Covid-19 regulations. Cyclists cannot just jump on their bikes and ride, like in a non-Covid Games. An appointment must be made the day before, and there must be strict monitoring of the ride. That means scant opportunity to get multiple rides in on the course.
Jung sees the course’s curveball: the first half is downhill, with the back half at a 5 percent climb. Legs and lungs will be burning, testing all riders.
The ultimate prize of a Paralympic medal lurks within Jung’s grasp, but he is quite definitive about the hardware not being the goal. He keeps his cycling medals in their boxes, away from display, instead cherishing the moments and memories as more precious.
Chris Murphy competes in the men's C4-5 time trial at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 26, 2021 in Tokyo.
This sport places the value on your results, which I don’t agree with,” he said. “That, for me, is setting yourself up for failure, because you can get your best result and still not win. You won’t enjoy the process. You will never take away the moments from the journey. You just will be chasing a piece of metal covered in a fake color. My awards are being able to tell you about how God got me through a sketchy part of the race, or how a bee stung me in the face two days before worlds and I was all swollen.
“I am really stoked for this race. The process validates itself. Always. I try to keep a weekend warrior mentality. They are out there grinding for the love of the process. They know the hard work means something more.”
The road race, with its mass start format, will bring a new dynamic.
Both Murphy and Jung noted the difference between competing solo vs. having a teammate. They normally are on their own, not getting the chance to do team tactics that can be seen in other road races. Having Murphy, now a two-time Paralympian, as a wingman could be crucial to help push Jung’s performance to a higher level.
After competing in the track cycling portion of the Games, Murphy said he was looking forward to the road race, where he doesn’t have high individual expectations but instead was looking forward to giving everything he has to helping Jung.
“Honestly, my only job is to try to help my teammate Cody for as much as I can for as long as I can,” Murphy said. “It’s a mass start race, and it’s really whatever he wants me to do for him, whether it’s try to chase people getting away early on, or just being there around him in case he has a mishap and needs to get help paced out.
“I’m just going to be there to support him and his medal potential as much as I can.”
Jung has some ideas in mind for where Murphy can help.
He wants Murphy to drop some pre-race jokes, and then help with technical things like clearing lines in corners or pushing his ascents. The weather forecast may not be as punishing as feared, with temps cooling down from the 90s to the mid-70s — but also with some rain.
He sees Murphy as his partner and friend in this race, making the experience more profound — no matter the result — because they shared it together.
“I want all the dad jokes before we start from Chris, I want us to smile,” Jung said. “Then we will go out and leave it all on the course. Time to go. Either way, Chris and I will have a story we can share for years. When I see Chris, years later, I can say, ‘Do you remember that crazy race? When you did this? You countered my attack. Or we both got dropped off the back and we did a joy ride at the Paralympics.’ We are going to have a story for sure. I’m stoked.”
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo-2020-Paralympic-Games to view the medal table and results.
Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes about sports regularly for the New York Times and other outlets. She has written for TeamUSA.org since 2009 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.