Sarah Storey Wins 17th Gold Medal in Japan
Sarah Storey etched her name into the record books as she stormed her way to a record 17th gold medal at the Paralympics, surpassing swimmer Mike Kenny to become Great Britain’s most decorated athlete at the games.
Peddling through torrential rain in Tokyo, the 43-year-old one again defended her C4-5 road race title which she has held since the 2012 Paralympics in London, finishing just seven seconds ahead of fellow compatriot Crystal Lane-Wright.
Treacherous conditions didn’t hamper the British duos efforts and the pair worked tirelessly to shake off their rivals in the final lap of the nearly 80km race, with the nearest competitor Marie Patouillet of France taking bronze finishing nearly two minutes behind.
Germany’s Kerstin Brachtendorf, six years Storey’s senior, stormed clear of her rivals, her advantage 75 seconds with just over 26km to go. However, Storey worked hard to close the distance in a compact and committed chase group behind that included teammate Crystal Lane-Wright, the eventual silver medallist.
After winning the individual C5 pursuit and the time-trial event, Storey made it a hat-trick of golds at what is her eighth Paralympics. Incredibly, she competed at her first games at the age of 14 in 1992 in Barcelona, where she was formerly a swimmer. However, since switching to the bike at Beijing in 2008, she has won nothing else but gold.
She told BBC; “I don’t know if it’s sunk in. It’s something everyone has been talking about since Rio when it became a mathematical possibility with me doing three more events in Tokyo.”
But you can’t take anything for granted and although I knew I had the capability to shut down the gap to Kerstin, when your legs don’t feel as good as they have done in the time trial and then the individual pursuit, then you think today is not my day.
“It’s one of those situations where I don’t know whether it will sink in when I get home, or whether it will be in a few months or even never at all.
“I just feel immensely proud and also immensely grateful to have so much support and to have such a great team around me and also a great team back at home. They’re the ones who are able to make this possible, by putting me on the start line in a position to go for it, so I’m a little bit lost for words in many ways.
Aside from Storey’s Paralympics medal haul, she has an extensive list of world titles and also made an attempt on the UCI hour record in 2015 at London’s Lee Valley VeloPark. She managed 45.502 kilometres, 563 metres short of the existing world record at the time, but set a new British record and a new world record in the C5 Para-cycling class.
However, Storey was jokingly optimistic and high in spirits regarding future games, but insisted she was yet to make a decision on whether or not she would continue on to Paris.
“I’m a spring chicken. There’s a guy here that was a swimmer the same time as me and he’s 64, Heinz Frei won a cycling medal at 63 too.
“It’s a family decision but we’ve talked about Paris. I’d love to have a big ride from London to Paris, towing my bags behind me to the Games.
“We’ve got the Commonwealth Games next year and the World Championships in Glasgow in 2023, then there’s just a year to Paris.”
“I need to go home and have a rest and gather my thoughts and talk to Barney and the kids and my parents and work out where we go from here.”