Sarah Storey has said that there was a time when she earned nothing for competing in elite cycling.
“When I won the able-bodied national series in 2012, there was no prize money for that. Nowadays, that series attracts a prize pot of about £10,000. So there has been progress, but when I won it, it was zero. Within parasport, every single race I've ever done has been a big fat zero.
“[L]iterally, the prize pots of the races that I do start at…well…you're lucky if it's 120 quid for the winner. You're literally talking expenses, not even that, because you can't even buy a hotel room."
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The lack of funds means that Storey has had to commit to other projects over the years. She is the principal of the SKODA DSI Cycling Academy - founded to help further opportunities for young female cyclists. She also helps develop emerging talent through the women’s cycling team, Storey Racing, which she launched ten years ago alongside her husband.
Somehow, she also finds time to speak about her experiences within sport at schools across the country, having taken up public speaking lessons at 14 years old, around the time she was gearing up for the 1992 Paralympics in Barcelona, her first Games.
"I have so many fingers in so many pies because there hasn't been an opportunity to earn a living through my sport. So I have to earn a living through the additional bits of my sport, which is obviously more time consuming," she told The Telegraph.
Alongside bringing awareness to the lack of funding in the sport, Storey hopes that there is an improvement in overall media coverage of the Paralympics and parasport in general.
“I've spent my entire career sort of waiting for that media pop, waiting for that coverage of the Paralympic Games to really hit off. We had that coverage around the [2012] Games in London.
“It really did die off four years later in Rio, and in between Games it always dies off. So, there's still that challenge there and covering parasport properly, not just once every four years. With TV coverage, the jury’s still out on whether we've nailed the next stage.”
Storey’s experiences have certainly shaped who she is as an athlete, and as she gears up for her ninth Games in Paris, she has realised that her continued work in ensuring that athletes are paid fairly, and that parasport gets the coverage it deserves is what truly matters to her.
“Having to work at the grassroots all the way through to the elite level, I get a really strong message of what's worth worrying about."
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