Sarah Storey Says Her 17th Paralympic Gold “Feels Like An Out Of The Physique Expertise”
|Venue: Tokyo, Japan Events: August 24-September 5 Time in Tokyo: BST +8|
|Cover: Follow on Radio 5 Live and on the BBC Sports website|
Sarah Storey may now be the UK’s most successful Paralympist, but the day-to-day chores have yet to be ticked off.
There is a celebration, but also name tags in school uniforms. Keep the bubbles on ice, Storey will pick up a needle and thread before taking a glass.
“I can drink champagne afterwards so I don’t stab myself or stick it shakily,” she says.
On Thursday, Storey secured her 17th gold medal, Winning the Tokyo women’s C4-5 road race to break Mike Kenny’s long-standing record. At 43 and their eighth games, no British Paralympist has won any more.
“I don’t know if it’s submerged. It’s something everyone has been talking about since Rio when it became a math possibility when I was doing three other events in Tokyo,” Storey told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Paralympic Breakfast.
“It’s one of those situations where I don’t know if it will sink when I get home, or if it will be in a few months or never at all.
“I’m just incredibly proud and also infinitely grateful to have so much support and such a great team around me and a great team at home too. It is you who make this possible by attracting me to the starting line able to try, so in many ways I am at a loss for words. “
That team at home includes husband Barney, daughter Louisa and son Charlie, who would have been in Tokyo without the coronavirus pandemic and all the restrictions it has resulted in. The same would be done by their parents, who did not miss any games their daughter had attended before this one.
Instead, Barney – himself a three-time Paralympics champion as a sighted pilot – watched from bed on his cell phone and kept his emotions under control so as not to wake Charlie sleeping next to him.
“It was very nerve-wracking. It was the most nervous thing I have ever seen her drive in a race,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“It is very difficult to put into words how to describe the drive and dedication that allow her to keep competing, winning and getting better.
“She’s just amazing how she finds new ways to push her body even more.
Storey has come a long way from the 10-year-old swimmer who was told she “started training too late to be good at anything”. Four years later she took part in her first Paralympics in Barcelona, where she won six medals, including two gold medals, in the pool.
More medals would follow in Atlanta and Sydney before she swapped her glasses for pedals due to a persistent ear infection. But it doesn’t matter whether it drives wheels or drives through the water – the best is yet to come.
Since her cycling debut at the Beijing Paralympics, Storey has won 12 gold medals. She has never lost a Paralympic bike race.
Sarah Storey and Lee Pearson added three gold medals to their Tokyo record
“I couldn’t have imagined playing eight games, let alone winning medals in all of them, including 17 gold medals. It’s the dream that I haven’t been able to achieve,” she said.
“I wanted to be a British athlete and compete for my country for as long as possible. Still being strong in the eight games is amazing.
“I’ve never felt a load on my shoulders. Every race is a race and it is then added to a balance sheet. I’ve never felt overwhelming pressure before a race. But it is the sweetest feeling to come back to my room and I know there are a couple of gold medals in the safe to stash them here. That makes the balance very real. “
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, she added, “It still feels like an out of body experience, like watching someone else go through this.
“It’s very, very difficult to put into words. I’ve worked for this for so long, but I’ve worked independently for each race.
“Well, now I’ve finished all three, I think ‘we’re done!’ It’s very strange so over the next few hours and the next day I’m hoping it’ll sink in.
“It’s incredibly overwhelming.”
Storey will be flying to the UK on Friday where she will be greeted by her family at the airport. Louisa, seven, told BBC Breakfast that she and her three-year-old brother Charlie planned on “running into” her if they saw her before she sat in the back of the car next to her supermum for the drive back to her Peak District home .
But will her 17th gold medal be her last? Unlikely. She has already set her sights on the Games in Paris in 2024, if only to give her youngest the opportunity to take part in the Paralympics.
“I said before we got to these games that Paris was something I wanted the opportunity to do,” she said.
“Charlie was really keen to come over here and watch and we didn’t cancel anything until the last moment because we were just hoping things would get better and they would let families in when nobody else. It would be fantastic to do Take Charlie to a game. “