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People profile: Dame Sarah Storey

Paralympic champion

Published in Sports Management Mar Apr 2017 issue 130
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue
Storey won three gold medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympics / Tim Goode / press associations
Storey won three gold medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympics/ Tim Goode / press associations

How did you first get into sport?
It was through my parents and then my primary school. My head teacher put a huge emphasis on sport at primary school. I did all kinds of different sports including cross-country, table tennis, netball and cricket.

How were the Rio Paralympics?
Rio was superb! The velodrome was very well done and the atmosphere was great. Despite the challenges of securing a decent course for the road events, in the end the venue at Pontal worked well, with any teething problems dealt with immediately.

Has the Paralympics changed?
It’s now bigger, with more sports, more athletes and more female athletes. We’re now getting better coverage and more attention on our return from the Games, with parades and events held alongside the Olympic team more often.

What changes would you like to see in para-cycling?
I’d like to see a better calendar of events for track cycling and a World Cup series. I’d like to see events televised, especially the World Championships, and if not on TV then live streamed without territorial restrictions.

I’d also like to see the promotion of our events to attract spectators. I’d like to see prize money and the creation of a professional registration structure.

Integration into able-bodied track and road cycling events may be the quickest way to attract these things. This has been proven to work for para-triathlon and para-rowing.

Do you believe the UCI is doing enough to promote para-cycling?
Not in all areas. Until there’s a strategy with end goals and deadlines for certain things to be achieved I don’t think para-cyclists will be able to honestly say they feel better off under UCI governance than we were previously under IPC governance.

We’ve been with the UCI for 10 years now and our spectator numbers, track programme and progression towards TV coverage has not changed at all.

How do you push women’s sport?
I focus on two different levels. The first level is about getting more women active in sport as a means of leading a healthier life with their families. The second is ensuring we create more opportunities for women to become sporting professionals and follow a career in the same way male athletes can.

To aid the second goal, I’ve created a cycling team – Podium Ambition – with my husband. We hope to find sufficient financial backing to run this team through to Tokyo and beyond. The team’s original goal was to provide an avenue for women to reach the Women’s World Tour, which is the highest tier in women’s professional cycling.

Tell us about your cycling team?
We started in 2013 and launched in 2014. For two years we were a UK Club team and in 2016 decided to register as a UCI team.

Last year, we secured the Tour Series team title for the third year. We ended up with 44 victories and wore jerseys in the Tour of California, Tour of Brittany and Tour of the Basque country. Every year since we began we have placed riders on the podium at National Road and Track Championships and have arguably been the leading domestic team throughout this time.

How do you feel about being unable to secure sponsorship to keep the team at UCI level?
We’re devastated that our attempts to secure sufficient sponsorship to keep the team at UCI level weren’t successful. Given the success of the riders on the team – we had two Olympic champions in Joanna Rowsell Shand and Katie Archibald – everyone assumed we would find a backer. The majority of the money in 2016 came from our own pocket and we firmly believe that with a bigger pot of money and paid staff we could do an even better job.

Will you keep striving to get sponsorship for the team?
Absolutely! We need to secure in the region of £500,000 a year to take the team back to being one of the smaller UCI teams.

Ideally we’ll find a backer that has dreams of supporting a Women’s World Tour team and possibly creating a World Champion in 2019 when the Worlds come to Yorkshire. It’s a huge ambition but it’s definitely doable, and since there’s no UK-based team with the level of experience Barney and I have of racing at top level, I think we’re a good bet!

What’s the plan for Tokyo 2020?
To be there! We’ll be making plans for this over the coming months. 2017 will be spent closer to home and recharging the batteries and bank accounts! We have no need to travel as extensively until the finally couple of years prior to Tokyo.

What goals would you like to pursue when you eventually retire from competition?
I’d love to remain in sport and work either as a team owner or manager, or even sports director. I’ve also enjoyed my role in the media when I’ve had the chance. Above all, I want to be able to support my daughter, Louisa, in whatever she decides to do and I want to have the time to learn new sports and skills so I can help her on her journey.

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