Dame Sarah Storey: Para cyclist on motherhood, equality and Tokyo targets
Exclusive: Sky Sports News speaks to Dame Sarah Storey - Britain's most decorated female Paralympian - in Lanzarote as she prepares for Tokyo
By Emma Paton, SSN reporter in Lanzarote
Last Updated: 04/03/20 3:40pm
Para cyclist Dame Sarah Storey was back in Lanzarote to step up her preparation for Tokyo and Sky Sports News reporter Emma Paton caught up with her to discuss life as a mum, fighting for equality, and battling for more silverware.
After nearly three decades at the pinnacle of elite sport, winning medals and setting world records, you would think it would be reasonably hard to pinpoint one single achievement in Dame Sarah Storey's incredible career. A crowning moment? One that stands out above all the others?
Having spent two days with Storey, watching her up close gearing up for the Paralympics in a familiar setting in Lanzarote, it's clear there are two triumphs separate from the rest.
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Blue skies, quiet roads, endless climbs and headwinds that will make you strong as an ox. A perfect location for a world champion cyclist, and a location she has come to since she was a 14-year-old swimmer preparing for her first Games in Barcelona 28 years ago.
It would have been difficult to predict what would happen next. 14 Paralympic golds, 38 world titles and 76 new world records. And now, at 42, Tokyo will be her first Paralympics as a mother of two.
"Sometimes I think about getting to my eighth Paralympics and I think 'Wow! How did that happen?" Storey says.
"So many years have gone by, so much has changed... but then so much hasn't. I'm still pushing personal best performances, trying to find the best version of me, trying to just be the best athlete I can be. It's all been an incredible journey and I look back and think how lucky I've been, but also about the amount of hard work.
"Being able to come back after two pregnancies - that's got to be my biggest achievement. Being out here and looking towards my eighth Paralympics with a fantastic family in tow, behind me and supporting me.
"I never expected to come back (from having children), and it was certainly not a pressure that I had to come back. I'd achieved everything I could have wished for. Four gold medals at a home Games was beyond my wildest dreams so I didn't feel any pressure to come back, so I think everything I've done since (London 2012) has been a huge bonus.
"I don't think I could do what I do without having them alongside me. Being a mum is the most incredible job you can do - and only doing that for a certain time in the year because training was more important... I couldn't live with that."
With an eighth Games on the horizon, Storey can make further history in Tokyo. Three more golds will see her beat Mike Kenny's overall record of 16 to become the most decorated Paralympian from Great Britain.
"Making history in Tokyo is obviously a really big thing to talk about, and it's something I don't think about on a day-to-day basis. It's there as an outcome goal but I'm very process goal-driven," Storey adds.
"I have to take it a day at a time. They aren't going to be easy races, it's going to be hot and humid - we're not in a village and we're not in a city like we were in Rio and in London. We're two-and-a-half hours outside of Tokyo - in two different locations for track and road. They all are a factor of how things will go. I'm looking to each event as an individual day, but it is a very exciting prospect.
"I don't think there's any pressure really. I think people like to talk about pressure because it's a cool thing to talk about, and you can say you've sacrificed to address this pressure and take it head on, but I'm doing this because I love doing it and I'm not doing it for any other reason than for myself and my family."
Having switched from swimming to cycling in 2005 after a persistent ear infection ended her career in the pool, Storey is no stranger to the issues that face professional women's cycling. Alongside her busy schedule, she set up her own elite women's team - and her own racing academy to help Britain's next set of champions.
"Things like the Tour de France... we don't have a female Tour de France, which is the icon of male sport and perhaps having more races that are more visible at the top end will help us at the bottom end, and bring more people in at grassroots level," Storey says.
"That's one of the reasons I'm working with the SKODA Cycling Academy and the This Is Our Time campaign to try and highlight and shine a light on these inequalities. If we can address it at the top level and provide those opportunities, perhaps the women at the bottom end and the young girls would say 'yeah, I can do the same as my brother'.
"At the moment, if you had twins - a boy and a girl - they'd get to junior age group and have a completely different pathway. We need to address that and make sure our young girls have the same opportunities when they get to that level as their brothers."
As achievements go, Storey's are remarkable. The titles, the records, her name etched in history, and on top of that, her role in eliminating inequality in sport.
But Storey's proudest achievements? Her Twitter bio will tell you. She's Louisa and Charlie's mum.