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Tokyo Paralympics: Dame Sarah Storey becomes greatest British Paralympian EVER with 17th gold

On the racecourse where James Hunt and Niki Lauda staged one of their most extraordinary F1 races, Dame Sarah Storey clinched a dramatic record-breaking 17th Paralympic gold in atrocious conditions.

Storey, whose third gold of the Paralympics takes her to a British record total of 17, was trailing German Kirstin Brachtendorf by well over a minute until her British team-mate Crystal Lane-Wright helped mount a comeback. 

Lane-Wright took over from Storey at the front of the chasing pack, reeling in the German and leaving the coast clear for Storey to power home to gold. 

Dame Sarah Storey became Britain’s greatest ever Paralympian overnight with her 17th gold

The 43-year-old came from behind to win the C4-5 road race in a downpour in Tokyo, Japan

The 43-year-old came from behind to win the C4-5 road race in a downpour in Tokyo, Japan

ALL OF DAME SARAH STOREY’S GOLDS

1992 Paralympic Games

– 100m backstroke

– 200m individual medley

1996 Paralympic Games

– 100m breaststroke

– 100m backstroke

– 200m individual medley

2008 Paralympic Games

– Time trial

– Individual pursuit

2012 Paralympic Games

– Individual pursuit

– 500m time trial

– Time trial

– Road race

2016 Paralympic Games

– Individual pursuit

– Time trial

– Road race

2020 Paralympic Games

– Individual pursuit

– Time trial 

 

After the pair of British riders caught up and overtook the German, they had a discussion about the prospect of winning gold and silver, in which Lane-wright said she told her teammate that she would not attempt to beat her to gold. 

Lane-Wright said she had told Storey: ‘This is your gold medal – you don’t have to worry, I won’t take it. I won’t even attempt to take it away from you.’

Lane-Wright admitted that this was ‘probably not the most athletic, competitive thing to do.’ But she also said that Storey’s win was a result of her having the power to race home first. ‘She hit it so hard at the bottom of the climb, I wasn’t quick enough,’ Lane-Wright said.

Storey said after the race that she had helped lead an exhausted Lane-Wright to silver.

‘Crystal was saying, ‘Get me up the climb, I need to get the silver medal,’ Storey said. ‘And then I just [went] full gas into the finish. We didn’t have a conversation about how the race would go before but once we’re in that race-winning mood, she was able to tell me that she just needed to get up the climb, and that I was just going to take it on to the finish.’

Lane-Wright, beaten into silver by Storey three times at these Paralympics, said after their first race in the velodrome last week that she hoped she would not be in the position to be able to stand in the way of her team-mate’s bid to become Britain’s most successful Paralympian gold medal winner.

But the road race was complicated and dangerous, with Storey describing driving into ‘a river of surface’ at times, with minimal visibility.

Looking to find a way to beat an opponents who has only ever won cycling gold at a Paralympics, Brachtendorf mounted an early breakaway for the front, as the track reached an incline at the end of the second lap.

Her advantage built from 25 seconds after the second lap to 65 seconds after the third, when the rain was biblical, to 75 seconds by the end of the fourth. Storey looked comfortable but Lane-Wright the only rider in the peleton who was willing to overhaul the leader and help out Storey.

Storey said in the aftermath: ‘We knew we had to time it right because if you go too hard too early, you’re burning all your matches, and I didn’t expect any help, you know, I’m defending champion and everybody wants me to take them to the line, as it were, so I knew it was my race to judge. Crystal came through on the penultimate climb to make sure we closed that gap, and then it was just down to me to try to get us the gap in the finish, so that last descent, I didn’t touch my breaks. I just went for it.

Storey's victory sees her eclipse Mike Kenny's tally of 16 gold medals for Paralympics GB

Storey’s victory sees her eclipse Mike Kenny’s tally of 16 gold medals for Paralympics GB

Storey won her first five gold medal in swimming

She then took to cycling and has dominated since 2008

She won her first gold aged 14 (L) at Barcelona 1992 and has added 16 more to her collection

‘It was really good when she came through and closed the gap, I didn’t have great legs on the climb in all honesty in the middle of the race. When she was able to use that to make sure we got back into the front, it was really good. It was great to be able to see we could take a clean sweep of the medals at the top of our podium, across the three events that we’ve raced.’

Storey said she had not felt the weight of history – despite the pre-race talk of this being her chance to surpass 1970s and ’80s swimmer Mike Kenny as the GB Paralympian with most golds.

‘You’re defending a title and it’s added to a tally afterwards,’ she said. 

‘I’ve never really felt that pressure to be overwhelming before a race. It’s just each race as it comes. It is the sweetest feeling to know that I go back to my room and there’s a couple of gold medals in the safe to put this one with and that makes that tally very real then.’

Lane-Wright has said she will now retire from Paralympic competition.

Meanwhile, in other disciplines ParalympicsGB added to their medal haul on Thursday as Bethany Firth took gold in the women’s 100m backstroke, with Jessica-Jane Applegate taking bronze.

In the men’s 100m backstroke Reece Dunn won bronze, while in the men’s C1-3 road race the party was very much getting started with Ben Watson taking gold on his debut and Finlay Graham winning silver. 

Meanwhile, British javelin star Dan Pembroke was left stunned after grabbing gold in Tokyo with a mammoth Paralympic record on his Games debut.

The Herefordshire-based 30-year-old, who has a degenerative sight condition and previously competed in able-bodied events, claimed victory in the F13 class with a gigantic throw of 69.52 metres. 

Earlier at the Olympic Stadium, Scottish wheelchair racer Sami Kinghorn won her second medal in 24 hours by claiming silver in the women’s T53 400m final following on from a 100m bronze on Wednesday evening. 

Three-time world champion Dan Greaves became the first Briton to win athletics medals at six different Games courtesy of F44 discus bronze.

Having stood on the podium in Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London and Rio, 38-year-old Greaves surpassed the feat of Tanni Grey-Thompson with a throw of 53.56m.

Team GB's Dan Pembroke celebrates as he wins gold in the javelin F13 at the Tokyo Paralympics

Team GB’s Dan Pembroke celebrates as he wins gold in the javelin F13 at the Tokyo Paralympics

Dreams of a second successive all-British Paralympic men’s wheelchair tennis final were extinguished as Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett suffered last-four defeats.

Defending champion Reid lost 6-3 6-2 to world No 1 and home favourite Shingo Kunieda, before Rio silver medallist Hewett was beaten 6-4 7-6 (5) by Holland’s Tom Egberink.

The British pair will battle each other for bronze on Saturday at Ariake Tennis Centre.

Fellow GB player Jordanne Whiley will also seek to salvage singles bronze following a 6-4 6-2 last-four defeat by Dutch top seed Diede De Groot in the women’s draw.

Whiley later made up for that disappointment by progressing to the doubles final with partner Lucy Shuker. 

Great Britain’s women finished seventh in wheelchair basketball after beating Spain 62-43 at Ariake Arena. 

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