British cyclist Dame Sarah Storey, 43, already has an astonishing 14 gold medals to her name but will be hoping to add to her haul at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo this month.
Indeed, three more golds from her three events would take her past swimmer Mike Kenny to become Team GB’s most-decorated-ever Paralympian, having already surpassed such greats as Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Dave Roberts on 11 each.
Storey, who was born without a functioning left hand, will be seeking to defend her titles in the C5 category of cycling’s 3,000m individual pursuit at the Fuji International Speedway track in Izu, as well as in the C5 time trial and C4-5 road race, but will face competition from fellow Brit Crystal Lane-Wright.
Astonishingly, Storey herself started out as a swimmer and won the first of her golds in the pool as long ago as Barcelona 1992 when she was just 14, before switching to cycling in 2005 after suffering from ear infections and adding another nine to the heap.
The Mancunian has also dominated at world championship level in both disciplines, picking up 38 world titles and 60 medals in total, most recently at the 2020 UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships.
But the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic - which saw the Paralympics postponed for a year alongside most other major sporting events as the world came to a grinding halt - threatened to pose a serious challenge to her training regime at this pivotal late stage of her career.
“I’d either use the once-a-day exercise allowance to do a training ride or I’d train on the turbo and use that exercise slot to take the kids for a walk,” she told The Daily Mail in a recent interview.
Storey otherwise spent lockdown homeschooling her two children in the village of Disley, Cheshire, and baking chocolate cakes as part of their studies, explaining: “It works for maths, science and tech and all sorts of different parts of the school curriculum so it was ideal for us.”
Her restricted training routine paid off, however, when she won both the C5 class 25.2km time trial at Estoril on Portugal’s Algarve in June as well as the 67.2km road race.
Her preparations for Tokyo have since taken her to Lanzarote where the humidity proved the ideal climate to help her adjust to the heat she is likely to encounter in Japan.
“There were training days of 45 degrees,” Storey told The Mail. “It provided me with a very good environment. I also lived without air conditioning out there. I went to accommodation that didn’t have the choice because if you’ve got the choice you or someone else will flick it on.”
Her dedication and self-discipline have never been in doubt and all eyes will be on her in the Far East again this month as she seeks to confirm her place in the history books.
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