Dame Sarah Storey has been hailed as a “superhuman” whose value to the paracycling community is worth as much weight in gold as the 15 she has won during an extraordinary Paralympic Games career.
British Cycling chief executive Brian Facer marvelled at Storey’s latest accomplishment, the 43-year-old smashing her own world record en route to retaining women’s C5 3000 metres individual pursuit gold at the Izu Velodrome.
If Storey successfully defends her C5 time trial and C4-5 road race crowns at these Tokyo Games next week then she would move on to 17 golds, one more than swimmer Mike Kenny claimed between 1976 and 1988.
Facer told the PA news agency: “She’s just superhuman. To have had the mindset, the ability and the body to be able to go on and do this, when others could give up and retire easily sooner than this, is just phenomenal.
“It’s really hard to put into words and it’s really hard to put into words what it means to the paracycling community. It shows us all that if we go on and work hard then we can achieve great things in our own lives.
“Dame Sarah Storey is an inspiration and if it encourages more people to get on a bike and a smile on their face then that’s got to be a good thing. She’s done that for a number of years now.”
Storey’s remarkable Paralympic journey started in swimming at Barcelona 1992 and has now encompassed eight Games, while she has juggled her career with her duties as a mother to two young children.
Storey, born without a functioning left hand after her arm became entangled in the umbilical cord in the womb, has long been regarded as someone who breaks down barriers and shifts perceptions for disabled people.
Speaking at an event led by the National Lottery which supports British Cycling through funding and a host of community programmes to get more people active, Facer added: “She’s setting the standard for us all to follow.
“In terms of the dedication, the mindset and the training she puts in, the family life she has with her children and all that sort of stuff as well, what an inspiration to us all.”
Jon-Allan Butterworth, who gold at Rio 2016 in the C1-5 mixed team sprint to go with three silvers at London 2012, applauded his former ParalympicsGB team-mate for continuing to find and then reach new goals.
He told PA: “It just takes a special kind of person to keep wanting to do that and put yourself through it. Knowing how hard it was to win that gold, every single gold is exactly the same challenge and just as hard.
“I can’t imagine what she’s done, to keep the motivation alive and that fire burning. People do expect her to just win. It’s almost like she just turns up but she’s out on the bike six days a week, she trains really hard.
“She makes it look so easy that it takes away a little bit of what she’s achieving continuously.”
Storey has signalled her intentions to still be competing at Paris 2024 and Butterworth, who retired from the British cycling team in December last year, does not see an end point.
He added: “For her to keep going, I don’t know how she does it. I can’t see her retiring and I definitely didn’t think after Rio that she’d still be going and still be as strong.
“There’s got to be a time where she retires soon, you’ve got to expect that, surely. But she’ll be going to Paris and beyond. That’s what she loves to do.”
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