Tokyo Paralympics: Sarah Storey wins 17th gold to become Britain’s most successful Paralympian


Sarah Storey has 17 golds among her 28 Paralympic medals in total
Venue: Tokyo, Japan Dates: 24 August-5 September Time in Tokyo: BST +8
Coverage: Follow on Radio 5 Live and on the BBC Sport website

Sarah Storey won her 17th Paralympic gold to become Great Britain’s most successful Paralympian of all time.

The 43-year-old defended the women’s C4-5 road race title she has held since London 2012 to put her one gold ahead of previous record holder Mike Kenny.

Britain’s Crystal Lane-Wright finished seven seconds behind to take silver.

It was a GB one-two in the men’s C1-3 race too, Ben Watson winning his second gold with Fin Graham claiming silver in atrocious conditions in Tokyo.

“I’m a bit overwhelmed, I feel like it’s happening to someone else,” Storey told Channel 4.

“I can’t really explain or compute anything about the race, but crossing the line first felt so good.”

Storey’s gold was her third of this Paralympics, which is her eighth Games since making her debut in Barcelona in 1992 as a swimmer.

She won the individual pursuit on the track before claiming time-trial gold to equal Kenny’s record.

Storey now has 28 Paralympic medals in total and has not won anything except gold since making her cycling Paralympic debut at Beijing 2008.

A table showing the five British athletes with the most Paralympic gold medals: Sarah Storey is top with 17, followed by Mike Kenny on 16, Lee Pearson on 15 and Tanni Grey-Thompson and David Roberts, who both have 11
Sarah Storey and Lee Pearson both added three gold medals to their tallies in Tokyo

Familiar conditions as Storey powers to title

In weather more akin to her home near Manchester, with rain and thick fog making visibility difficult at the start, Storey was in the front pack from the off, alongside Lane-Wright.

The British pair allowed German Kerstin Brachtendorf to make a breakaway towards the end of the second of the six laps and the 49-year-old clocked a 25-second lead at the checkpoint.

She extended that advantage to more than a minute at the halfway stage, with Storey leading the chasing group and Lane-Wright constantly on her wheel.

As the rain got even heavier they were unable to reel Brachtendorf in, the gap opening up by another 10 seconds after four laps.

But Lane-Wright hit the front of the chasers with a significant injection of pace and her burst made all the difference as the pack quickly caught up with Brachtendorf to leave five riders in contention for the medals at the end of the penultimate lap.

It was at this point that the British duo found another gear, Lane-Wright and Storey breaking away to open up a comfortable lead coming into the finish on the Fuji International Speedway circuit.

Storey punched the air in celebration as she crossed the line in two hours, 21 minutes and 51 seconds.

France’s Marie Patouillet took bronze, almost two minutes after Storey finished, with early pace setter Brachtendorf fifth.

“I don’t know if it’s sunk in. It’s something everyone has been talking about since Rio when it became a mathematical possibility with me doing three more events in Tokyo,” Storey told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Paralympic Breakfast.

“But you can’t take anything for granted and although I knew I had the capability to shut down the gap to Kerstin, when your legs don’t feel as good as they have done in the time trial and then the individual pursuit, then you think today is not my day.

“It’s one of those situations where I don’t know whether it will sink in when I get home, or whether it will be in a few months or even never at all.

“I just feel immensely proud and also immensely grateful to have so much support and to have such a great team around me and also a great team back at home. They’re the ones who are able to make this possible, by putting me on the start line in a position to go for it, so I’m a little bit lost for words in many ways.”

‘There are times when I think, ‘what would Sarah do?”

Lane-Wright’s silver was her third in Tokyo, having finished second to Storey in all three races.

The 35-year-old, who has five Paralympic medals in total, hinted this would be her last Games and was very aware of the historic nature of the race.

“I said ‘this is your gold medal’. You don’t have to worry, I’m not even going to attempt to take it away from you,” Lane-Wright said.

“This is part of history now. And I didn’t have the legs, she went so hard. It’s easy for me to now say I gave it to her, but she won that fair and square.

“Gold medals aren’t the only thing that define it, you also have to look at her as a professional. And even if she’d won silver today, she is still one of the greatest athletes we will ever have.

“I’ve piggy-backed on that because I’m in the same category and now on the same podium. There are times when I think, ‘what would Sarah do?’. She inspires me that much.”

Watson wins second title at debut Games

Watson claimed victory in the men’s race, for his second Paralympic title in Tokyo, just moments after Storey and Lane-Wright crossed the line in the women’s competition.

Five years ago, during the Rio 2016 Paralympics, Watson was working a desk job as a chartered surveyor. He attended a talent ID day and fast forward to 2021 and he’s a double Paralympic champion, having won the C3 time trial two days previously.

The 32-year-old was up at the front from the start and, alongside Graham and three-time medallist in Tokyo Jaco van Gass, was in the leading group at the halfway stage of the 79.2km race in the shadow of Mount Fuji.

But on the fourth lap Watson made his move, quickly establishing a lead of more than a minute on the rest of the field that he would never relinquish.

On the fifth lap, Graham – silver medallist behind Van Gass in the 3,000m individual pursuit earlier in the Games – broke away from the pack to all but confirm the British one-two, and he crossed the line one minute and 20 seconds behind team-mate Watson.

In a sprint for the finish, France’s Alexandre Leaute took bronze, almost seven minutes after Watson had won, with Van Gass missing out in fifth.

“That was mental,” Watson told Channel 4.

“I complain about the rain but I love racing in this, I adore it.

“When I woke up this morning, I had a smile on my face, it was going to be pretty good.”

Storey’s career in pictures

Sarah Bailey - as she then was - pictured with members of the Great Britain squad at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta, where. aged 18, she won three gold medals in swimming
Sarah Bailey – as she then was – pictured with members of the Great Britain squad at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta, where, aged 18, she won three gold medals in swimming
Sarah Storey stares at the clock after shattering her own 200m backstroke record by over six seconds in 1993
Sarah Bailey stares at the clock after shattering her own 200m backstroke record by more than six seconds in October 1993, just after her 16th birthday
Sarah Storey with a silver medal at the Athens 2004 Paralympics
Sarah Storey won two silvers and a bronze in swimming at the Athens 2004 Paralympics
Sarah Storey celebrates on the podium at the velodrome at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics
Beijing 2008 was Sarah Storey’s first Paralympics as a cyclist – she won two golds
Sarah Storey celebrates winning the road race at London 2012
Sarah Storey won her first Paralympic road race title at London 2012
Sarah Storey shows off her gold medals at the London 2012 parade
Sarah Storey won four gold medals at the London 2012 Games
Sarah Storey and her daughter Louisa hold her gold medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympics
Rio 2016 was Sarah Storey’s first Paralympics as a mother. She and husband Barney welcomed daughter Louisa in 2013 while son Charlie arrived in 2017
Sarah Storey celebrates after crossing the line
Sarah Storey is competing at her eighth Paralympics

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