Sarah Storey eclipsed all competition to win her second gold medal of Tokyo 2020 in the C5 time trial on Tuesday morning. In doing so she also drew level with the swimmer Mike Kenny as the most successful British Paralympian of all time.
The Dame finished a minute and a half clear of teammate Crystal Lane-Wright and, at points, was catching the tail of the men’s race at the Fuji International Speedway circuit, so dominant was her performance. That is standard for Storey, who spoke afterwards of the “single-mindedness” that has brought her 16 gold medals to this point and the prospect of another, a record-breaking 17th, in two days’ time.
“Sweet 16! Can I be 16 again?” said Storey with a laugh and another hefty piece of jewellery around her neck. “I never set out on this journey to be Britain’s greatest Paralympian, but to match the best man and to have more other medals is just a dream come true.
“Well, It is almost a dream that was not one. I know it was asked of me after Rio about what I would do. Would I stop now? Have another baby? What will you do? The closer we have got to Tokyo the more it has been like: this is a possibility, it really could happen. You just don’t know. I have got better as I have got older.”
Storey recorded a time of 36 minutes 8.09 seconds in the 24km race, run in laps around the raceway track. Race analysis showed that she extended her lead over Lane-Wright at every intermediate point to finish 1 minute 31 seconds ahead of her compatriot, who is also her main rival in the upcoming road race on Thursday.
“It was one of the most perfect days today, the conditions were perfect,” Storey said. “It was not too hot. No wind. The course is super quick. The corners were really grippy and I rode a really good line and carried speed. I got caught up in a bit of traffic at times perhaps as I was going a bit quicker than they had anticipated. They do time it incredibly well so you don’t get mixed up with the lads, [but] I was in with the end of the lads. I had to keep my head, know the rules, make sure you stay out of trouble and finish it off well.”
Tokyo is Storey’s eighth Paralympic Games and her fourth as a cyclist, after beginning her athletic career as a swimmer. Famously she was in contention for a place in the team pursuit at the 2012 Olympics only to miss out on selection. She went on to win four golds in the Paralympics that year instead. The time trial is Storey’s favourite event, with the 43-year-old believing it suits the traits of her character the best.
“It’s the race of truth,” she said. “The chance to pitch yourself against yourself more than anything. See if you can pick off your competitors in the process. It has that little bit of everything. It has that race bit, that competitiveness, but also that single-mindedness that has carried me through my whole career. If you weren’t single-minded when you followed that black line in the swimming pool you wouldn’t last very long. That is probably why I am so suited to this event.”
Now it’s the final hurdle, six laps of an alternative 13.2km circuit in Fuji, and an event that Lane Wright believes is her strongest.
“I take it one race at a time and I need to have a think now about the road race”, Storey said. “I will need my tactical head on. There are a number of girls that are incredibly well positioned, who race incredibly well. The girls who have made the podium here today obviously. There are girls off the podium [too] who, as we saw at the Olympics, it just needs one move that you weren’t expecting and that race has gone. I will need to have my best race head on and see what happens. Ultimately it is a road race.”