Our Outstanding athlete for this issue is the amazing Dame Sarah Storey. The question is: where to start, given her twenty three years as an international athlete?
Dame Sarah Storey has won 11 Gold, 8 Silver and 3 Bronze medals across a mind boggling 6 Paralympic Games; she has World and Paralympic Gold medals in two sports [swimming and cycling] - and just to add spice, they are in 11 different events [6 in the pool and 5 on a bike]. In total she has:
- 11 Paralympic Gold Medals [5 swimming, 6 cycling]
- 8 Silver Medals [swimming]
- 3 Bronze Medals [swimming]
- 20 World Championship titles [6 swimming, 14 cycling]
- 7 World Cup titles [5 Paracycling, 2 able-bodied cycling]
- 21 European titles [18 swimming, 3 cycling]
- More than 140 National titles [3 able-bodied National titles on the track]
- 72 World Records
Having spent a small amount of time with Sarah, the stand-out thing about her is how incredibly down to earth and humble she is. This doesn’t belie her grit and determination - which is clear in her results - but there is a sense of a world class athlete about her. Sarah talked about cycling, the crowds, winning and all the things athletes talk about - but when you listen to her everything comes back to a love for what she is doing and the fact that she doesn’t take it for granted. “I’m very privileged to be doing what I’m doing - there are so many opportunities with this sport,” she said.
This is something you would expect from a fresh young athlete at the start of her career and yet, twenty three international years later Sarah still has this view and focus. Medals and winning are what athletes are there for, but an outstanding athlete is about more than that and Sarah’s perspective shows a depth of character and humility that makes her stand out. To still have that freshness and excitement for sport and the gratitude for what it provides is lovely to observe.
This theme continued through all the other things we talked about,from representing her country and the privilege she felt wearing the GB jersey, through to what it means to be a team captain and the role she seeks to play in the team. Sarah is a passionate, straighttalking athlete who is a consummate professional in all she does, but with this incredible ability to be completely grounded and overflowing with alove for what she does. It was a privilege to spend a small amount of time with her.
Having observed first-hand the Olympics, Paralympics, Commonwealth games and Pearl Izumi Tour and seen the level of passion, blood sweat and tears the female cyclists demonstrate, I know they will appreciate Dame Sarah Storey’s final quote on women’s cycling. “It’s not a bunch of girls with baskets on their bikes riding around,” she says. She certainly isn’t and nor are any of the others!