Dame Sarah Storey has struck gold once again to become the most successful Paralympian in British history, and cement her legacy as one of the great athletes of her generation.
The 43-year-old once again left the field behind in the C4-5 road race, defeating fellow Brit Crystal Lane-Wright to successfully defend a title she has held since the London Games of 2012.
That was her 28th Paralympic medal of an astonishing career, and the 17th gold medal – taking her clear of Mike Kenny at the top of the all-time standings. Storey has also moved up to fifth in the all-time medal list at the Paralympics, just two behind Jonas Jacobsson and Zipora Rubin-Rosenbaum in joint third.
“I’m a bit overwhelmed, I feel like it’s happening to someone else,” an understandably elated Storey said afterwards.
“I can’t really explain or compute anything about the race, but crossing the line first felt so good.
“I don’t know if it’s sunk in. It’s something everyone has been talking about since Rio when it became a mathematical possibility with me doing three more events in Tokyo.”
This was Storey’s third gold of the Tokyo Games, in what is – remarkably – her eighth appearance in the Paralympics, having made her ‘debut’ as a 14-year-old swimmer in Barcelona back in 1992.
A Golden History
As is so often the case for Paralympians, Storey has had to overcome numerous obstacles to reach the pinnacle of her sporting success.
Born without the use of her left hand, Storey faced bullying at school and developed an eating disorder. She was also told by a swimming coach that she would amount to nothing having ‘left it to late’ to join at the age of ten.
But four years later, she had shoved those words down that embarrassed coach’s throat, winning two golds, three silvers and a bronze in Barcelona while still barely a teenager.
Storey’s success would continue in 1996 when she claimed three golds, a silver and a bronze in Atlanta, but a catalogue of ear infections prevented her from competing at her best in 2000 and 2004, and so he made the bold decision to switch to competitive cycling.
And what a decision it was. Storey won a pair of golds in Beijing in 2008, four more in London and completed her incredible dominance with a hat-trick of gold in Rio.
So, since the start of 2008, Storey has won each of her last 12 Paralympic events – a record that will surely never be matched.
“I just feel immensely proud and also immensely grateful to have so much support, and to have such a great team around me and also a great team back at home,” Storey said with trademark self-deprecation.
“They’re the ones who are able to make this possible, by putting me on the start line in a position to go for it, so I’m a little bit lost for words in many ways.”
Let’s hope that, privately at least, she is taking plenty of the credit for her awe-inspiring achievements.