Sarah Storey closes in on Paralympic history with yet another gold medal

That's 15 Paralympic gold medals and 77 world records for the 43-year-old British rider.

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Sarah Storey is one step closer to becoming Great Britain’s greatest ever Paralympian after taking gold in the women’s C5 individual pursuit at the Tokyo Paralympics on Wednesday.

The 43-year-old posted a time of 3:27.057 in the heats of the 3,000-metre event, nearly four seconds faster than her own world record set at the Rio Paralympics five years earlier. In the final on Wednesday evening Storey caught compatriot Crystal Lane-Wright with 1,000 m still to go, ending the race and winning gold in the C5 individual pursuit at a fourth consecutive Paralympics. 

Storey now has a remarkable 15 Paralympic gold medals to her name, alongside 40 world titles. She has also set a total of 77 world records.

“I broke the world record in Beijing, London, and Rio so for me it’s been quite overwhelming to try and keep backing that up, pushing on the pedals and going faster and faster,” Storey said. “I never expected to go as quickly this morning, but I’m so glad I did.”

Storey, who was born without a functioning left hand, made her Paralympic debut as a swimmer at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, as a 14-year-old. After swimming at four Paralympics and winning five gold, Storey switched to cycling for Beijing in 2008. Now partway through her eighth Paralympics, Storey’s 15 gold medals leave her just one behind the British record of 16, held by swimmer Mike Kenny who competed in four Paralympics between 1976 and 1988.

Storey will have the chance to equal and then break Kenny’s record next week when she competes in the C5 women’s time trial and C4-5 road race. She won both events in London and Rio and is widely tipped to do likewise in Tokyo. But she doesn’t see that as the foregone conclusion many others do.

“I am my own biggest competitor,” she said. “My flatmates will tell you that this week, I have been like: ‘Have I got enough in the tank?’ I never like to assume everything is in that place. You cannot make those assumptions. I just like to let the legs do the talking on race day.”

Storey’s latest success in the C5 individual pursuit – her 10th Paralympic cycling gold – was somewhat bittersweet given COVID restrictions prevented her family’s attendance.

“Being in an empty stadium, we are prepared to race like that, but once you’ve finished racing that’s when it hits you,” said Storey, a mother of two. “Racing in a pandemic is hard but it’s when you want to celebrate with people that you realise you can’t have your friends and family here.

“We can celebrate with the team, which is amazing, but there’s a bigger team behind the team and now more than ever they’re missed.”

Storey has said she is determined to carry on racing until the 2024 Games in Paris, if only so her now-three-year-old son can be there to watch.

“Charlie really wants to go to the Games, so I’ve got to make sure that he can,” Storey said. “Being in Paris is a huge motivator just from a family perspective, as well as trying to keep continuing to push myself to be the best that I can be.”

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