Dame Sarah Storey made history by becoming Great Britain’s outright most successful Paralympian after powering back to claim the 17th gold of her glittering career at Tokyo 2020.
Cycling star Storey trailed veteran German Kerstin Brachtendorf by 75 seconds at one stage of the C4-5 road race at the rain-soaked Fuji International Speedway but underlined her class to snatch glory in a finishing time of 2:21:51.
Fellow Briton Crystal Lane-Wright picked up her third silver of the Games by crossing the line seven seconds off the pace, with France’s Marie Patouillet completing the podium in 2:23:49.
On an extraordinary morning, there was also a British one-two in the men’s C1-3 event, with Benjamin Watson taking gold in 2:04:23, a minute and and 20 seconds ahead of compatriot Fin Graham.
Mother-of-two Storey had matched Mike Kenny’s long-standing British record of 16 golds on Tuesday by winning the C5 time trial at this venue.
The 43-year-old was already more decorated than swimmer Kenny going into her third and final event of the Games owing to a greater haul of medals, which ahead of the race stood at 27 to his 18.
She was eager to unequivocally stand alone at the top of Britain’s all-time individual medal table and did so in dramatic fashion thanks to preserving her flawless record in Paralympic cycling with a stunning comeback victory.
The former swimmer – whose first five golds came in the pool, beginning at Barcelona ’92 – has now won all 13 bike events entered dating back to her Games debut on two wheels in Beijing in 2008.
“I couldn’t have imagined having eight Games, let alone winning medals at every Games, and 17 of those medals being gold,” she said.
“It’s the dream I didn’t have coming true.
“I just wanted to be a British athlete, I wanted to compete for my country for as long as I possibly could, and to still be going strong in Games number eight is truly amazing.
“I never felt a weight on my shoulders. 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.”
Clegg finishes individual Paralympic career amid Cape Verde marriage proposal
by Molly McElwee
Two-time Paralympic champion Libby Clegg drew a line under her individual sprinting career by failing to progress from her 200m heat, but there was a happy ending for a fellow competitor who received a marriage proposal on the finish line.
Paralympic debutant Keula Nidreia Pereira Semedo of Cape Verde finished the T11 race – for athletes with visual impairments – in last place with a season’s best, but little did she know her day was about to get better. Her guide Manuel Antonio Vaz da Veiga got down on one knee and popped the question, much to the shock and delight of Pereira Semedo who said yes as her fellow competitors gathered to cheer and congratulate them.
It was a touching moment, at the end of a race which marked four-time Paralympian Clegg’s final individual competition in Paralympic athletics. Clegg, who was running with guide Chris Clarke, had said Tokyo 2020 would be her last Games in the sport and her time of 27.93 meant she failed to progress to the 200m semi-final.
“To finish my career in the Paralympic stadium in Tokyo is amazing,” an upbeat Clegg said. “I wasn’t even sure I was going to be here so I’m happy. I’ve still got the relay to come tomorrow which I’m really looking forward to, so I’m ready for that one. It has been such an honour to be on such a successful team.”
Since her double-gold in Rio, Clegg gave birth to her first child in 2019 and competed in Dancing on Ice in 2020. She has spoken about the challenges the pandemic brought to her training as a visually impaired athlete, as she was not allowed physical contact with her coaches or her guide during training sessions.
“For me, this Games is a year too late,” Clegg said on Thursday. “I was ready for it last year, I was in phenomenal shape. It’s been a really tough 18 months for all athletes; it’s hard but it is what it is.”
Clegg competes for the British 4x100m universal relay on Friday. Meanwhile team-mate Anna Nicholson came sixth in the F35 shot put with a season’s best throw of 8.03m.
Wednesday’s silver medallist Sammi Kinghorn progressed to the T53 400m final on Thursday night after she comfortably won her heat.