Storey with a happy ending after 11th gold
Friday 07 September 2012
Sarah Storey did not lead from start to finish en route to claiming her record-equalling 11th Paralympic gold medal. Not quite. It took her two kilometres to make her break in the C5 64km road race, by the second lap she had overtaken the preceding men's race. It was possibly the longest victory parade in history.
It was Storey's fourth gold of the Games, a neat split of two on the track and two on the road, and the ease with which she collected it should in no way detract from the scale of her achievement. As she crossed the line on a perfect late summer's afternoon in the garden of England she punched the air, her hands decorated with Union flag gloves, to mark her perfect Games. This is a supreme athlete, competing at the peak of her considerable powers. She is now level with Tanni Grey-Thompson and Dave Roberts, a former swimming team-mate, in the number of gold medals won.
The trio are considered Britain's most successful Paralympians but that is accompanied by an asterisk. There is one Briton who has won more Paralympic gold – Mike Kenny with 16 – but his all came before 1989, the year in which the classifications were radically adjusted following the foundation of the International Paralympic Committee. Kenny competed in four Games from 1976 to Seoul in 1988, winning his golds and two silvers in the pool. In the complex history of the Paralympics, Seoul and Barcelona 1992 are seen as the start of the modern Games.
But never mind the small print. This is about Storey and not only her 21 Paralympic medals – there are seven silvers and three bronze to add. "Hopefully, this Games has shown just what athletes we are at the parallel Olympics," said Storey. "I'm just so proud to be part of it for so long. This has been the greatest Games for me. Two golds in Barcelona, three in Atlanta, two in Beijing – I've won four here. I can't get over it!"
Her British team-mate Jon-Allan Butterworth suggested she would have won an Olympic medal in the time trial and a return to the able-bodied team is likely in the near future. Were it not for the Paralympics she would have been considered for the road World Championships in the Netherlands this month. At 34 a place in the Rio Olympics is surely beyond her, especially with a number of young riders, such as Lucy Garner and Elinor Barker, coming through the carefully nurtured ranks at British Cycling.
Not that Storey holds to that point of view. "The jigsaw puzzle's got to get put together over the next four years," she said. However that fits together, the 2016 Paralympics is an option. And once there it would be sensible to expect a dozen gold and counting.
"You've seen what I'm capable of today and, hopefully, I can keep pushing those boundaries," she said. "That's what it's all about, challenging yourself to get quicker."
That is a frightening thought for her opponents. Yesterday it took her until midway through the second lap to overtake the men's C1-3 race that had set off two minutes ahead of the women. By the halfway stage she was five minutes ahead of the women's field and she crossed the line nearly seven and half minutes clear. It would have been more if she had not slowed down in the final 200m to savour the moment.
"It was a bit of a celebration coming down the home straight but I think that was allowed," she said. "I love my job. I really do love what I do. I love training really hard – I'm a bit of a sadist really."
Golden generation: Most British gongs
Sarah Storey (swim/cycling) 11
David Roberts (swimming) 11
Tanni Grey-Thompson (athletics) 11
* Mike Kenny (swimming) won 16 golds between 1976-1988 before the start of the modern Paralympics.
Today's Brit watch
Gabby Down; Fencing
One of Britain's youngest competitors at the Games, Down is just 14 years of age, and started competing in wheelchair events in 2009. She will be taking part in the women's fencing team competition starting at 11.00am alongside Gemma Collis and Justine Moore.
Scott Moorhouse; Javelin
Despite just missing out on a medal in the World Championships last year, Moorhouse has moved up to second in the world in the F42 javelin rankings this season to put himself firmly in contention at the London Games. He will be throwing for a medal from 11.33am.
Jim Anderson; Swimming
At what is now his sixth Paralympic Games; Anderson will be hoping to find the form that saw him win his six gold medals in the 1996 and 2004 Paralympics.
The 49-year-old will hope to make it third time lucky at this Paralympics, after missing out on a medal in his last two events, but he has the experience to spring a surprise. He will compete in the 50m freestyle S2 heats at 10.36am and, should he qualify, the final is at 6.51pm.
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