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dame sarah storey on para cycling inequality

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Female Cycling SPOTY nominees: Dame Sarah Storey

We're speaking to each of the three female cycling start nominated

This year’s shortlist for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year includes three female cyclists – Dame Sarah Storey, Laura Kenny, and Kadeena Cox. The winner will be announced live, following a public vote, on Sunday December 18. 

On a star studded list of just sixteen contenders across all sports – shortlisted by an expert panel – we feel women’s cycling has done pretty well. We will be catching up with each of the three contenders to hear their views on being nominated in advance. Today we speak to Dame Sarah Storey, who this  year incresed her Paralympic gold medal total to a jaw-dropping fourteen. 

Words: Maria David

dame sarah storey
Three more gold medals in Rio.

How did you find out that you had been nominated for an award and what was your reaction?

Barney [Storey’s husband] received a phone call from the BBC and so it was him who told me that I was on the list. Initially you don’t get to know who the other contenders are, so we had to wait until Monday 28th November, about a week later. In between we were trying to guess who else would be on the list! I think we got almost all of them right apart from the football players! We also thought Chris Froome would have been on there. My reaction was one of excitement and then mild panic that I would be last again! In 2012 when I was nominated I received the least number of votes in SPOTY history apparently!

Since there are three para-athletes and six women among the nominees do you think this represents a change in attitude of the expert panel?

Para-athletes rarely get a look in outside of Paralympic year so this probably isn’t the right year to be answering that question. In 2012 there were three para-athletes on the list out of twelve nominations so we have gone backwards from there. Whether there needs to be a conscious decision to portion out the list towards gender is a big point of debate. It would be nice to think that if male footballers are worthy of nomination then so too are female footballers.

Dame Sarah Storey: No Prize Funds in Para-Cycling World Champs but Integration Comes First

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Sarah and Barney

Are there any other cyclists that you think could have been on the list?

Cycling is probably a victim of its own success and could have had other nominations to fill at least half the list. Rachel (Atherton) and Chris (Froome) are the two glaring omissions, and it’s coming to something if you can be as dominant as they both are and miss out on being included. Having said that, I wouldn’t like the job of whittling it down to a shortlist. There are other sports with omissions too but the more nominations there are in a sport the greater the chance of a split vote so I think it’s debatable as to what is the best approach!

 

You have also been nominated for a Times SWOTY (Sports Woman of the Year Award). This has been a great year for you.

It has been an incredible year for me and I feel very fortunate to have been recognised with each of the nominations. Winning three golds in Rio was my greatest sporting achievement this year. Since coming back from pregnancy I have been unbeaten in para-events on the road and in the 3000m individual pursuit. My individual pursuit time in Rio is up there with the best in women’s cycling, and comes on the back of a season on the road where I challenged some of the world’s best road riders. I hope the example allows other girls to realise you can combine track and road and have great results at both.

Dame Sarah & Barney Storey: Pregnancy and the Peloton

What has been your high point off the bike?

Seeing Louisa grow and gain confidence and independence. She has an extraordinary schedule for a pre-schooler and takes it all in her stride. I love the things that she teaches me and noticing the changes in her approach to challenges as she grows. Every stage of a child’s development is amazing to me.

With baby Louisa!
With baby Louisa!

What challenges have you had to overcome? 

My biggest challenge has been to fitting everything in! While doing my training and being a mum I have been running a UCI Women’s team [Podium Ambition]. This includes doing all of the logistics for racing, travel and staffing, reporting to the accountants & sponsors, running the social media and the website, managing the team vehicles, among many other things. I have done these roles alongside running the Cycling Club – Boot Out Breast Cancer. Barney has dealt with the other operational roles including liaising with riders, sorting out equipment, being the director sportive and even being the chef!

dame sarah storey chris boardman cafe ventoux leicester cycling cafe podium ambition boardman bikes
Storey in her World Champion kit alongside her Podium Ambition team mates

We knew this was a huge under-taking but we did it because we believed we could demonstrate we were worth investing in, and because it was the only way of ensuring I could have the perfect preparation for Rio.

We’d love to employ a full staffing team for the support roles because the rate we worked this year is not sustainable and our health was always on the brink. Working at over-capacity means growth is impossible and so it was a double blow when the finance for the future of Podium Ambition couldn’t be found in time to re-register for 2017.

Next year, Sarah (and Barney) aren’t 100% sure what they will target as there have been no Para-cycling Track World Championships announced so far, they are also hoping they secure a suitable sponsorship partner to enable them to run another women’s cycling team.

Watch this space!

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