29 January 2020

Family driving Storey to more world and Paralympic success

Dame Sarah Storey has won it all but is using her family as motivation as she vies for her 15th Paralympic gold medal in Tokyo this year.

The 42-year-old’s tale is one of persistence, longevity and determination, starting her Paralympic career as a mere 14-year-old in Barcelona in 1992 and going on to compete at every Games since.

And while the 29-time world champion begun as a swimmer it was soon para-cycling for which she became known, switching sports in 2005 before claiming golds on the bike in Beijing, London and Rio to indelibly write her name into ParalympicsGB folklore.

The decorated veteran is still going strong though, reaching the end of her eighth Paralympic cycle and preparing to compete in the Track World Championships in Canada as the countdown to Tokyo intensifies.

And while after 28 years of competing at the highest level she could be forgiven for lacking motivation, the mother of two – to Louisa and Charlie – says it is those closest around her that continue to fuel her will to succeed.

“I love seeing the reaction of Louisa and Charlie to the different environments we travel to and the way they are learning about the importance of resilience and hard work through sport and the journey we are on together,” Storey said.

“I think people assume motivation can only be found in an outcome goal, whereas I am fascinated by the mindset required for the preparation and the intricacies involved.

“Welcoming Louisa and Charlie are without doubt the best parts of the last ten years – it has been amazing to watch them grow and involve them in what we do.

“I’m also really proud of how Barney [Storey] and I have balanced everything and work as a team.

“With the children involved and with amazing parental support, we have been able to enjoy travelling to training and competing and still find ways of improving performance, as well as fitting in a lot of different things off the bike too.”

Dame Sarah Storey in action

The 75-time world record breaker is married to fellow Paralympian Barney Storey, who scooped para-cycling golds in Beijing and London and continues to provide Sarah with unwavering assistance and support.

And that will no doubt come in useful this week as she descends on Milton, hoping to win her 24th para-cycling World Championship gold in a crucial Paralympic year.

But while Storey will be competing for three events in Canada – the 500m time trial, scratch race and individual pursuit – it is the latter in which she harbours most of her hopes.

“The individual pursuit is the Paralympic event and so the priority,” she added.

“I am quite fortunate with the programme of events in that I have two shorter speed-based events in the two days prior to it, so it provides me with the perfect opportunity to be on the track and freshen up my legs ahead of the individual pursuit.

“The worlds are a bit earlier this year, so I’ve combined it with a training plan that I anticipate using with a short-track build up before Tokyo.

“It has been good to have the opportunity to do that and with the shorter track season I’ll be able to hit my road preparation a bit earlier than I did in 2012 and 2016.”

While a hat-trick of successes in Milton would send Storey to Japan in high spirits, the seasoned campaigner remains visibly grounded as the months to the Games tick down.

Three more Paralympic golds would see Storey surpass Mike Kenny’s overall British record of 16, a tall order but one few would put past her given her insatiable appetite for success.

And on the eve of one of the most important World Championships she has competed in, Storey is driven to further augment her impressive medal cabinet.

“I’m thoroughly enjoying the journey, so part of that enjoyment is to absorb the present and acknowledge the details that are going in to following the process for the next challenge,” she said.

“I’m a completely process driven athlete, so I think that helps ensure I don’t look too far ahead and can be aware of the things that are making a difference.

“My focus on the future is solely on the logistics of making something happen and the process of getting somewhere.

“I am feeling confident in the processes we have in place to ensure I am in the best possible shape I can be by the end of August, and am looking forward to the final few months of preparation.”

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