Great Britain's Sarah Storey, along with teammates Laura Trott and Wendy Houvenaghel, earned a gold medal in the women's team pursuit on Thursday at the UCI Track World Cup in Cali, Colombia. Her performance in Cali brings her one step closer to a groundbreaking 2012 season as next year Storey may become the first British athlete to compete in both the Olympic Games and Paralympics.
The 34-year-old Briton, born without a left hand, first emerged as a world-class athlete in swimming. She won two golds, three silvers and a bronze at the 1992 Paralympics in Barcelona as a 14-year-old and continued winning swimming medals in three more Paralympics before switching to cycling in 2005. At the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, Storey won two gold medals in cycling, claiming the individual pursuit and time trial titles.
While a swimmer, Storey also competed in able-bodied competition, and that has continued when she made the switch to cycling.
"I've always competed in able-bodied competition," Storey told Cyclingnews in Cali. "When I was a swimmer I raced [with able-bodied competitors] before I even realized the Paralympics existed, trying to compete for national titles in swimming.
"When I made the transition into cycling it seemed an obvious way to compete a lot more. Racing is what you train for and there's far more able-bodied races than there are paracycling races. Ultimately I just want to try and be the best I can be and when I go back to paracycling and show just what an elite sport it is.
"Everyone's fighting for gold medals, the same as we are here tonight, so for me it's just about making myself as fast as I can, make myself better and better every time and just see how far I can take my legs, my heart and my brain."
Storey's team pursuit gold medal in World Cup competition was her second, with her first coming in the previous season's World Cup finale on home soil in Manchester, England. Storey, along with teammates Wendy Houvenaghel and Joanna Rowsell, qualified fastest with a new British record of 3:20.962 and then re-set the mark in their gold medal-winning ride, clocking 3:19.767, the second-fastest 3,000m team pursuit time ever recorded. Only the United States National Team has gone faster, as Sarah Hammer, Lauren Tamayo and Dotsie Bausch set the current world record of 3:19.569 at the 2010 Panamerican Games.
"I was so fortunate to compete in Manchester in front of a home crowd, a completely full velodrome back in Manchester, and now to compete in front of a full velodrome over here in Colombia is just amazing and I feel very privileged," said Storey.
While Storey's priority is to defend her Paralympic gold medals earned in 2008 in Beijing at the 2012 Paralympics in London, she has her sites set on an unprecedented double next year as she seeks to make the British team for both the Olympic Games and the Paralympics, made even more special by the Games being hosted by her native Great Britain.
"Obviously a home Games is what every athlete wishes for," said Storey. "We were fortunate in Manchester to take the Commonwealth Games in 2002. I was able to swim there and that was just an amazing experience. To have the entire world, not just the Commonwealth, come home and be in our venues and be on our home turf is going to be just sensational.
"I can't wait to see the whole world arrive and to fight it out for those medals. If I can get somewhere close to defending those titles I won in Beijing I'll be a happy girl. Anything else will be a huge bonus."