Greatest Paralympian, Dame Sarah Storey, still hungry for gold at 43

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With 14 Paralympic golds, she needs to win another three here to overtake swimmer Mike Kenny, who topped the podium 16 times between 1976 and 1988. But comparing eras, sports and athletes is a fraught business, especially in the Paralympics where the Games of today bear no resemblance to those of three decades ago. And nobody knows that better than Storey, who made her debut as a 14-year-old swimmer in 1992.

Now 43, she is showing no signs of slowing down – a 29-time world champion in two different sports, with 75 world records too.

Across seven Games appearances, she’s won 25 medals – with eight silvers and three bronzes somewhere in a collection of tangled ribbons at the Peak District home she shares with husband Barney and children Louisa, eight, and Charlie, four.

And long before Laura Kenny, Serena Williams and Helen Glover, she was there blazing a trail for mums in sport.

I’m leaving behind 25 Paralympic medals; it would just be nice to return with just a few more

Sarah Storey

They certainly broke the mould when they made Storey, who even claims pregnancy was the perfect preparation for these postponed Games. “When I was pregnant and training, I didn’t know whether I would compete again and that really prepared me mentally for the uncertainty around this Paralympics,” she said.

“I still love training; I still love racing and my kids love being involved with it too. I know people will look at my age but I know my competitive spirit is still there, I’m still feeling up for that race day.

“I hope I’m showing age is not a barrier, body willing, and being in your 40s doesn’t need to be the twilight of your career. I know every sport is different – I certainly couldn’t have still been a swimmer.”

Nearly 30 years as an athlete have certainly given Storey perspective, lockdown spent juggling homeschooling with training just another bump in the road.

Team-mate Crystal Lane-Wright represents her biggest challenger in her three events here, starting with the C5 3000m individual pursuit at Izu Velodrome tomorrow.

Then her focus will switch to the defence of the time trial and road race titles from Rio, events she won five years ago by a combined margin of over five minutes.

She added: “I’m leaving behind 25 Paralympic medals; it would just be nice to return with just a few more.”

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