Sarah Storey beat her own world record on her way to winning a 15th Paralympic title in the C5 3000m individual pursuit - Team GB’s first gold in Tokyo.
Having already been Great Britain’s most decorated female Paralympian, the 29-time World Champion’s triumph puts her just one behind swimmer Mike Kenny’s 16 gold haul between Toronto 1976 and Seoul 1988.
In a repeat matchup of the final in Rio five years ago, the 43-year-old comfortably caught teammate Crystal Lane-Wright inside eight laps at 1,750m to take victory at the Izu Velodrome.
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Storey arrived in the final having already torn through her own world record during a heat, becoming the first woman to break the three-and-a-half-minute threshold.
Her 3.27.057 time was a four second improvement on the previous best, set during her trio haul of golds at Rio.
“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,” Storey told Channel 4.
I broke the world record in Beijing, in London, in Rio, 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.”
Storey was forced to celebrate her dominating success without the presence of crowd or fans, as Tokyo remains under a state of emergency.
Yesterday saw reports of the first positive Covid-19 result for an athlete in the Paralympic village.
“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,” Storey continued.
Racing in a pandemic is hard. But 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.”
For Lane-Wright, the 35-year-old can add silver in Tokyo to the two podium finishes achieved in Rio – silver and bronze.
She set a new personal best in qualifying, but once again had the misfortune of facing the imperious Storey in the gold medal bout.
There were more Team GB medals to be found in the velodrome shortly after, as Steve Bate and Adam Duggleby took silver in the men’s B 4000m individual pursuit.
The pair had been hoping to defend their title, but Dutch duo Tristan Bangma and Patrick Bos were too strong – like Storey, breaking a world record on their way to gold.
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