Sarah Storey has become the most successful British Paralympian of all time, sweeping up her 17th gold medal in the rain soaked C4-5 road race at the Tokyo Paralympic Games on Thursday.
Storey, who won her first gold medal 29 years ago, delivered a third gold medal this Paralympics by surging to the line ahead of compatriot Crystal Lane-Wright. That lifted her medal tally to 17 and so ahead of swimmer Mike Kenny.
The British pair of Lane-Wright and Storey worked together to drop their rivals in the final lap of the 79.2 kilometre race with Marie Patouillet of France, nearly two minutes behind the duo from Great Britain, securing the bronze medal.
“I couldn’t have imagined going to eight Games, let alone winning medals at every Games, and 17 of those medals being gold,” said Storey in a statement.
“It’s the dream I didn’t think would come true. I just wanted to be a British athlete, I wanted to compete for my country for as long as I possibly could, and to still be going strong in Games number eight is truly amazing.”
It was a rainy day out on the course in Tokyo and in the early stages of the race Germany’s Kerstin Brachtendorf had set out on her own, stretching the lead to beyond a minute. Storey tapped away behind keeping the gap in check at the lead of the group of Lane-Wright, Paula Andrea Ossa Veloza (Colombia), Patouillet and Nicole Murray (New Zealand).
The German rider was caught heading into the final lap of the six lap race and then Storey and Lane-Wright left all their rivals behind to pull out a commanding lead as they headed toward the line.
"I'm defending champion and everybody wants me to take them to the line," said Storey after the race.
"I didn't expect any help. I knew it was my race to judge. Crystal came through on the penultimate climb to make sure we closed that gap, and then it was down to me to try and get us the gap in the finish. In that last descent I didn't touch my brakes, I just went for it."
Storey’s victory comes after she also won the C5 individual pursuit on the track and then moved onto the road to take out the C5 time trial at the Fuji International Speedway, where Lane-Wright also came second.
“It is the sweetest feeling to know that I go back to my room and there are a couple of gold medals in the safe to put this one with,” said Storey. “That makes that tally very real then.”
The 43-year-old Briton, who was born without a functioning left hand, first competed in the Paralympics as a 14 year old in Barcelona in 1992. She won five gold medals in the pool, and then switched over to cycling in 2005 after being forced out of the pool for much of that year with ear infections. She has won the rest of her gold medals in cycling, with her biggest tally coming in her home Olympic Games in London in 2012, where she won four gold medals.
It was revealed earlier this year in The Times that Storey, was granted a backdated Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) after returning an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for salbutamol during the 2012 Paralympics. Salbutamol is not a banned substance unless more than 1600 micrograms are taken in the space of 24 hours, in which case a TUE is required. A sample containing more than 1000 ng/l of salbutamol triggers an AAF.
Apart from Storey’s Paralympics medal tally, she has a long list of world titles and also made an attempt on the UCI hour record in 2015 at London’s Lee Valley VeloPark. She covered 45.502 kilometres, 563 metres short of the existing world record of the time – which has been broken a number of times since – but set a new British record and new world record in the C5 Para-cycling class.
Storey, who also launched women's race team Storey Racing along with Barney Storey in 2017, said she was yet to make a decision on whether or not she would continue on 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."
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