Sport

Sarah Storey: Becoming a parent has given me a fresh outlook on what’s really important

Dame Sarah Storey is a 14-time Paralympic champion, with nine gold medals in cycling (from 2008 to 2016) and five from swimming (1992 to 2004).

Storey and her husband Barney – a three-time Paralympic champion as a tandem pilot for visually-impaired riders – have two children, five-year-old daughter Louisa and 16-month old son Charlie. Here Storey writes on International Women’s Day 2019.

Becoming a parent has given me a fresh outlook on what’s really important.

We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.

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When I finish training for the day then I don’t have time to consider whether it was good or bad.

Similarly at competition time, I’m entertaining children and doing something with them which completely distracts me from thinking about racing.


2018 sport in quotes





1/23 “I know I’ll regret this for the rest of my life. I’m absolutely gutted.”

2/23 “You are the liar. You owe me an apology. You stole a point from me. You’re a thief too.”

3/23 “It was like wrestling.”

4/23 “I am only missing Firmino saying he got a cold because a drop of my sweat landed on him,”

5/23 “It’s a bit of a hellhole…I’ve just done an interview and all I can smell is urine.”

6/23 “If somebody has done that they need to see a doctor. Seemingly he says it was me – but I would admit it.”

7/23 “It’s the most embarrassing thing I’ve done.”

8/23 “I always dreamed of holding this trophy when I was a young boy.”

9/23 “It’s coming home…”

10/23 “People were talking, English journalists, pundits from television. They underestimated Croatia tonight and that was a huge mistake.”

11/23 “At the moment we all feel the pain of the defeat. The dressing room is a very difficult place at the moment.”

12/23 “It’s going to go on a part that only (my girlfriend) Grace will see.”

13/23 “The issue’s obviously with Jordan (Spieth) not wanting to play with me.”

14/23 “I’ve won more titles alone than the rest of the managers in this league combined.”

15/23 “I just showed the world tonight, and everyone else suffering from mental health, that you can come back and it can be done.”

16/23 “It is like a cow that every day in 10 years, sees the train cross in front at the same time. If you ask the cow, ‘what time is the train going to come’, it is not going to know the right answer.”

17/23 “Give them all the help they need because clearly they cost us two points today. It’s a joke.”

18/23 “Do you know how to twerk?”

19/23 The support from the – Welsh, British flags and … it’s unreal. It’s the Tour de France. To ride around wearing this [yellow jersey] is a dream.”

20/23 “Tonight, I will leave this beautiful country, and I am looking forward to seeing my dogs, Roscoe and Coco, who live in LA. The unconditional love of a pet is something quite special.”

21/23 “To go out on your own terms, with your last ever innings for England a hundred. From a purely selfish point of view, I couldn’t have asked for a better week.”

22/23 “Have you ever taken those pills, the laxatives. I’m going to go through this man.”

23/23 “It’s quite raw at the moment, we’ve got to get back home and reflect on where we go as a side.”

1/23 “I know I’ll regret this for the rest of my life. I’m absolutely gutted.”

2/23 “You are the liar. You owe me an apology. You stole a point from me. You’re a thief too.”

3/23 “It was like wrestling.”

4/23 “I am only missing Firmino saying he got a cold because a drop of my sweat landed on him,”

5/23 “It’s a bit of a hellhole…I’ve just done an interview and all I can smell is urine.”

6/23 “If somebody has done that they need to see a doctor. Seemingly he says it was me – but I would admit it.”

7/23 “It’s the most embarrassing thing I’ve done.”

8/23 “I always dreamed of holding this trophy when I was a young boy.”

9/23 “It’s coming home…”

10/23 “People were talking, English journalists, pundits from television. They underestimated Croatia tonight and that was a huge mistake.”

11/23 “At the moment we all feel the pain of the defeat. The dressing room is a very difficult place at the moment.”

12/23 “It’s going to go on a part that only (my girlfriend) Grace will see.”

13/23 “The issue’s obviously with Jordan (Spieth) not wanting to play with me.”

14/23 “I’ve won more titles alone than the rest of the managers in this league combined.”

15/23 “I just showed the world tonight, and everyone else suffering from mental health, that you can come back and it can be done.”

16/23 “It is like a cow that every day in 10 years, sees the train cross in front at the same time. If you ask the cow, ‘what time is the train going to come’, it is not going to know the right answer.”

17/23 “Give them all the help they need because clearly they cost us two points today. It’s a joke.”

18/23 “Do you know how to twerk?”

19/23 The support from the – Welsh, British flags and … it’s unreal. It’s the Tour de France. To ride around wearing this [yellow jersey] is a dream.”

20/23 “Tonight, I will leave this beautiful country, and I am looking forward to seeing my dogs, Roscoe and Coco, who live in LA. The unconditional love of a pet is something quite special.”

21/23 “To go out on your own terms, with your last ever innings for England a hundred. From a purely selfish point of view, I couldn’t have asked for a better week.”

22/23 “Have you ever taken those pills, the laxatives. I’m going to go through this man.”

23/23 “It’s quite raw at the moment, we’ve got to get back home and reflect on where we go as a side.”

I took a break to have Louisa after London 2012 and returning for the Rio Paralympics, with my daughter there, was really special.

To get four gold medals at home was beyond my wildest dreams, but to come back after pregnancy… there was a point where I was sitting at home having gained four stones and I never thought I was coming back to anything, let alone to win three more.

But nature is amazing and seeing the Games through Louisa’s eyes was just brilliant. It brings back that child-like joy.

She’d notice things which I didn’t and kids don’t have any hang-ups about stuff.

I’m really looking forward to having Charlie there with Louisa in Tokyo.

There’s an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. And I think it does.

Both sets of grandparents were in Rio to see me race and to help look after Louisa. I couldn’t do it without Barney.

I do go to bed early if I need to and Barney takes the lion’s share of tidying up in the kitchen and doing the washing. And he’ll get up early in the morning to get things ready.

We do focus a lot about rest as athletes, but when the reason you’re not resting is someone you’d do anything for, it’s not really an issue. If one of the kids is up in the night you deal with it.

We really are a team when it comes to bringing the kids up and balancing things out. We put them first and build the rest of our lives around that.

We try to coincide training camps with the school holidays, but lots of working parents can’t choose when they’re working and need to take their children away.

When that happens, I become mummy teacher. I go into school once a week to listen to Louisa’s class read and when we’re away, we make sure we’re doing the best for her education.

I spoke to Shelley Rudman, the silver medallist from the 2006 Turin Olympics, who home-schooled her first child while on the skeleton circuit.

And I also took advice from Tanni Grey-Thompson, who won 11 Paralympic gold medals as a wheelchair racer and became a mum late in her athletics career.

There are quite a few working mums in cycling. Because women in endurance cycling get better into their thirties, it comes to the point where some of them have children during their career.

There’s Laura Kenny and Lizzie Deignan in the British squad and I am happy to give advice and support.

Cycling’s not necessarily the easiest sport to have children because of the travelling, it’s just you can compete into your 40s.

For me, International Women’s Day is about recognising that so many women don’t have the opportunities we have, but we should highlight that on more than one day of the year.

The theme this year is ‘Better for Balance’ and there’s work to do in all aspects of life, including in cycling.

We are very fortunate compared to many and it’s getting better, but there’s a long way to go to making it as equal as it should be.

With our cycling team, Storey Racing, which competes domestically and internationally, we’re working with younger riders now – we’ve got six seniors and six under-18s.

As the elite peloton becomes more professional, we want to mentor the younger riders, so they can make good decisions on and off the bike.

We want their futures to be bright and full of opportunity; just like for our children.

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