Tokyo Paralympics: Sarah Storey aims to become Britain’s most successful Paralympian

In the 29 years since she made her Paralympic debut, Sarah Storey has been there, done that and got the medal collection to show for it.

With 14 Paralympic golds to her name already, the first five from swimming before her switch to cycling, she is Britain’s most successful female Paralympian – yet more history beckons.

Win her three events at the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Games – the C5 individual pursuit, C5 time trial and C4-5 road race – and she will surpass swimmer Mike Kenny’s record of 16 titles, making her the nation’s outright most successful Paralympic athlete.

Not bad for someone who, after joining her first swimming club at the tender age of 10, was told she had “started training too late to be any good at anything”.

“I think [the record] would just be something where I don’t know if I would quite believe it. I’m just focusing on each race, one at a time,” Storey, 43, told BBC Sport.

“To make eight Games is a huge honour and to be in with a chance of this target is another huge opportunity. I’m excited to see if I can try and do it.”

But it will be a very different scenario in which Storey, who made her Paralympic debut in Barcelona in 1992, will be trying to make that history.

The global Covid-19 pandemic has meant training has been very different in the 18-month lead up to the Games, but Storey remains as “confident as anyone could be” of retaining her titles from Rio.

Restrictions mean spectators are not permitted at the Tokyo Paralympics – which start on 24 August – so there will be no trip to Japan for Storey’s children, eight-year-old Louisa and three-year-old Charlie.

Louisa and Charlie, as well as their dad and Storey’s husband, Barney, are almost a constant presence at her races, in non-pandemic times at least. But Tokyo will be different, and that’s something of which Storey is all too aware.

“It’s the first Games my parents haven’t been to, so it’s not a thing to be taken lightly,” she said.

“It is a huge undertaking to do this by yourself, when you’re used to having that support around, but I’ve got big mental strength, I’m going to be calling on that every day no doubt, I’m expecting it to be tough.

“I’m prepared, the kids have been preparing me, they’ve been drawing me things and we’ve been talking about it, they know I’ll be away for 22 days. Whether they can picture what 22 days looks like, I’m not sure.

“It’s going to be hard, but it’s just the way it is and I can’t change it.”