Britain’s most successful female Paralympian, Dame Sarah Storey, has spoken of the potential of next month’s TISSOT UCI Track World Cup in London to be the catalyst for further progression in global para-sport.
For the first time at a world cup, para-cycling events will take place as part of the main schedule, meaning that para and able-bodied riders will share the stage at one of the world’s most iconic velodromes – the Lee Valley VeloPark.
The event will see riders battle for Tokyo 2020 qualifying points while providing a showcase for para-cycling, and 14-time Paralympic champion Storey is determined that it should also signal a new era for para-sport.
“It’s a huge step forward for para-cycling to have events alongside the abled-bodied world cup,” she says. “It’s going to be fantastic to have that opportunity to race at the same time and to showcase para-sport at the highest level.
“Para-sport doesn’t get the kind of publicity it deserves just yet, and I’d like to think that this is a really good starting point for other events to follow suit and include a para-sport programme.”
For Storey, the event represents a return to the venue in which she attempted the world hour record in 2015, and where she and her British team-mates received such memorable backing during what is seen by many as the greatest ever Paralympics in 2012.
She adds: “The memories of 2012 are still so fresh. I also did my hour record at the Lee Valley VeloPark, and I know how amazing the crowds are there, so I’m really looking forward to being out in front of them again, and to be able to share that atmosphere with the people that we train with day in, day out.
“That experience of 2012 is almost impossible to replicate, but I think we’ll get close to it at the world cup. Unfortunately, para-cyclists can be used to competing in an empty velodrome, so for some of the younger riders in particular to have this experience will be huge.
“I’d like to think that, in years to come, it won’t be unusual for the riders just starting out in their careers to be at the same event as the able-bodied squad. I hope this becomes more normal, and people don’t make the assumption that we have separate events and are therefore separate teams.
“We’re one Great Britain team – we train together and we’re going to have that racing opportunity in London as well. Hopefully, in a few years’ time, it will be so normal that people will wonder why we ever had to have these discussions.”
The para-cycling events – tandem sprints, C1-5 team sprint and C1-5 time trials – will all take place during sessions one and two of the TISSOT UCI Track World Cup, on Friday 14 December. There are a limited number of tickets available for those sessions and for competition on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 December, available to purchase here.
Dame Sarah Storey was announced alongside the wider Great Britain Para-cycling Team in the video below.