Storey time: Dame Sarah could tie British record with 16th Paralympic gold

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Sarah Storey could tie Mike Kenny's long-standing British Paralympic record with a 16th gold medal (Picture: OIS/Thomas Lovelock)
Sarah Storey could tie Mike Kenny's long-standing British Paralympic record with a 16th gold medal (Picture: OIS/Thomas Lovelock)

From Tom Harle in Tokyo

It’s clear that Dame Sarah Storey is happiest on two wheels, where she can block out the noise from those piling pressure on her bid to become Britain’s most successful Paralympian.

The 43-year-old can equal swimmer Mike Kenny’s long-standing record of 16 golds with victory in her favourite event, the road time trial.

It will just be Storey and her timing device on Tuesday and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I focus very much on the numbers on the screen and making sure I get the very best out of my legs,” said the super-mum.

“Each race is an isolated race although there is obviously an enormous task if you add everything together.

“I have always been taught about following the process and that is very much the case for this race.

“That is where I am in my happiest place, on the time trial bars, trying to get the very best out of my legs.”

Storey has won the last three Paralympic time trial titles on the road and won the world title in June by 46 seconds.

She will go for gold once again on the Fuji International Speedway, where James Hunt wrapped up the 1976 Formula One world title, which is set to deliver a testing, lumpy course.

Race tactics are one of few ways to get Storey talking and she’s already obsessing over the profile of the eight-kilometre course.

“I am looking forward to seeing the circuit, I have heard it is very hard,” she said.

“I have heard you need to have a bit of courage maybe to go out for it. I have been training really hard in hot conditions, I am looking forward to getting my teeth stuck into it.

“I have a gold medal from these Games and I have medalled in eight consecutive Games. So it’s a very exciting opportunity to be able to start so well and now try to back it up.”

Storey has been inundated with goodwill texts as she goes for history in Tokyo - although if Kenny, the man she is set to overtake, has been in touch she hasn’t got round to messaging back yet.

“He’s not someone I am regularly in touch with,” said Storey, who is able to train full-time and benefit from world class facilities, technology, coaching and support teams thanks to National Lottery funding.

“I have been trying to get through all of my messages. I don’t know if he is on social media. But it has been so amazing to receive so many congratulations back home.

“It was really, really lovely people had taken the time and they had stayed up to watch.”

The image of the formative years of the Paralympics are of a school sports day and sports like Dartarchery - that’s right, a combination of darts and archery.

At Tokyo’s first staging of the Games in 1964, Britain’s Can Walton found out she’d be competing in shot put and javelin when she first landed in Japan - having never attempted either.

Kenny won his golds from 1976 to 1988 and Storey paints a nuanced picture of her own experience of the movement’s ebbs and flows.

“I have never felt like the Paralympics was a sideline,” she said.

"I have always trained alongside athletes who have gone to the Olympics, right the way back to Barcelona in 1992 when one of the girls from my school and swimming club went to the Olympics and I went to the Paralympics.

“Some circumstances may have changed, I don’t have to train on my own anymore – unless I want to- whereas I did in my first Games, I had to go to the pool because the swimming club didn’t operate in August.

“That is part of the development. It is something that should embrace and showcase and be proud of how far it has come, now it has become well-known and more well covered.”

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