One down, two to go. Sarah Storey raced closer to Paralympic immortality in the Izu Velodrome on Wednesday as she breezed her way to gold in the C5 3,000m individual pursuit, breaking her own world record in the process.
Storey is already one of the most garlanded athletes in British history and is competing at her eighth Paralympic Games, itself a record. She now has 15 gold medals to her name, just one short of swimmer Mike Kenny’s all-time record for a British Paralympian. With two more events to come next week, two more in which the 43-year-old will be a strong favourite, that ultimate accolade is well within her sights.
In truth, the final of the C5 category was less a race than a procession. Storey lapped fellow Briton Crystal Lane-Wright in the final with more than 1,000m left to run. An overlap in pursuit, when one rider eats up half a circuit of track on their opponent, ends the race.
“It’s hard to put into words after a race,” said Storey. “For me as an individual, I’ve won a medal at every single Games I’ve been to and this is my fourth time winning the individual pursuit in a row. I broke the world record in Beijing, in London, in Rio and this morning, so for me it’s been quite overwhelming to try and keep backing that up and keep pushing on the pedals to go faster and faster. I never expected to go as quick as I did this morning but I’m so glad that I did.
“It’s quite overwhelming, being in an empty stadium. We have to be prepared to race like that but once you finish racing that’s when it hits you, literally the stands are empty. It’s when you want to celebrate with people you realise you don’t have your friends and family here. We can celebrate with the team, which is obviously amazing but there is a bigger team behind the team you see here today and now more than ever they’re missed.”
Storey had already shown her prowess in the qualifying round, taking a whole four seconds of her own world record time, posted at the last Paralympics in Rio in 2016. Her gold was the first for ParalympicsGB at Tokyo 2020.
Storey’s world record was one of eight set on a remarkable opening day of cycling at Izu, 170km south of Tokyo. The first mark was hit in the very opening ride, when China’s Qian Wangwei recorded a time of 4min 31.476sec in the C1 category, the classification for cyclists with the most severe impairments.
Two more Chinese athletes quickly followed suit, Wang Xiaomei setting the record in the C3 category of 3.55.781, before Sini Zeng posted 4.06.263 in the class C2.
Australian riders then took centre stage with Paige Greco hitting back against Xiaomei to take back her own world record in the C3 category. Greco then went on to outdo herself in the final with a time of 3.50.815, meaning not only had she claimed gold ahead of Wang, but had taken almost 10 seconds off a time that had been the best in history at the beginning of the day.
Fellow Aussie Emily Petricola, who has multiple sclerosis, won gold in the C4 category where she also set her own world record time, posting 3.38.061 with an average speed of just under 50km/h.
Finally, the Dutch men's duo of Tristan Bangma and pilot Patrick Bos broke the world record in the blind cycling B4000 event, with a time of 3.:59.470 and an average speed of 60km/h. - Guardian