With 500 days now to go until the Tokyo Paralympics, Dame Sarah Storey says she is content to wait for her bid to become Britain’s most successful ever Paralympian.
Storey – for whom, if selected, Tokyo will be an eighth Games – currently has 14 gold medals to her name across swimming and cycling events, two behind the current record of 16, held by swimmer Mike Kenny.
Storey would have been in contention to surpass that total this summer, but she says, with the Games now confirmed for the summer of 2021, the wait of 12 months will only increase her appetite for further success.
“I don’t think you’ll find an athlete in the world who disagrees with the decision to delay the Games,” she said of the initial postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Everyone’s immediate focus is rightly on health, wellbeing and supporting everyone who is working so hard on the frontline to protect and save lives.
“Of course, it means that we have to reset and revise things slightly, but it was completely the right decision, and the fact that they’ve acted so swiftly in rearranging the Games is good news for everyone, as we now have a definite timeframe to work towards again.”
For Storey, who now has 38 world titles to go with her 14 Paralympic gold medals, there will be a couple of sentimental reasons why the 2021 Games could now take on an even greater significance.
Wherever the mother-of-two is competing, the familiar faces of husband Barney and children Louisa and Charlie are ever-present in the crowd, and Tokyo is set to be no different.
She explains: “One of the positive things I’m taking from the delay to the Games is that Louisa and Charlie will both be a year older, and be able to take more of the experience in.
“Louisa came to the Rio Games as a three-year-old, so will be able to remember bits of that, but by the time Tokyo comes around now she will be eight and Charlie about to turn four, so it will hopefully be something which they can both really enjoy.
“2021 is also going to be the 30th anniversary of the start of my international sporting career, so there’s a nice symmetry to that as well!”
For the whole family, the next 500 days will now be geared towards Tokyo, ensuring that revised preparations are perfect, and that Storey is able to challenge for that British record come August 2021.
“Putting everything back twelve months and ensuring that you’re still peaking at the right time is a challenge that every athlete in the world is now facing,” she continues.
“However, adaptability is something that every top-class athlete needs, and as a mother it’s definitely a required skill as well, so I think I’m in a good position to deal with it!
“The focus hasn’t changed – you put the hard yards in to give yourself every chance of being the very best you can be on the day of competition. Even if that day is now 12 months later, I’m still every bit as focused on that target.”