Dame Sarah Storey says that the sense of ‘family adventure’ which comes with continuing to compete with the support of her husband and two small children keeps her motivated, as she targets success at an incredible eighth Paralympic Games.
With one year to go until the curtain comes up on the Tokyo 2020 Games, Britain’s most successful female Paralympian is aiming to add to her medal haul, which includes nine gold medals won in cycling and five as a swimmer.
Storey will be 42 by the time the Games begin, but despite now combining her racing career with her role as Sheffield’s Cycling and Walking Commissioner; leading her domestic team, Storey Racing; and being mother to Louisa and Charlie; she says that the desire to add to her unparalleled success is as strong as ever.
“I’m hoping to be selected for both road and track in Tokyo, so that I have the chance to defend the titles I won in Rio (C4-5 road race, and C5 time trial and individual pursuit),” she says.
“The milestone of one year to go doesn’t change anything in terms of my attitude or intensity, but the planning takes a different focus as we prepare to race the track and road in the same week in a year’s time.
“The road season will effectively end at the HSBC UK | National Road Championships next June, and a combined approach will be needed in July and August. Additionally, planning for hypoxic training and then the final block to incorporate heat acclimatisation is also more crucial, as this is a very fatiguing but vital combination of training.”
If selected, Tokyo will represent Storey’s first Paralympic Games as a mother-of-two. She and husband Barney took a then-three-year-old Louisa to Rio to see Storey win her three golds in Brazil, while son Charlie arrived a year later in 2017.
Both are already no strangers to a bike race, and Storey says that the fact that the family is able to enjoy their unique experiences together makes juggling priorities slightly easier.
She continues: “It’s been almost two years since Charlie arrived, and it’s been quite a journey with two children. I have always put the needs of the children ahead of everything, because if they are happy and settled, then I can go out and do my job without any distractions or worry.
“Barney and my parents are at every major event, and we have a motorhome so I can stay at road race HQs to cope with the early starts that the women’s races usually have.
“There’s obviously a lot of planning but both Louisa and Charlie are great travellers; it’s a great adventure to them and they love being involved. Louisa has even handed me bottles from the feed station before!”
Understandably, the way the Storeys have continued to operate at the highest level as their family has grown has drawn praise, however the 14-time Paralympic champion believes that they face similar challenges to young families across the country.
“I have been humbled by the messages of support by people who are enjoying following our journey as a family,” she adds.
“I think all working parents have a tricky balancing act, so I don’t really think we are all that different, it’s just with so many weeks a year on the road we are always together and following the adventure as a family.”
Storey’s next major competition is next month’s UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Emmen, the Netherlands, where she will defend her road race and time trial world titles.