University celebrates Dame Sarah Storey’s Paralympic gold

Sarah Storey
Dame Sarah Storey

THERE were special celebrations around the University when Dame Sarah Storey won her 12th gold Paralympic medal last week, surpassing the previous GB women’s record of 11 set by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.

Sarah went on to win a 13th gold medal on day seven of the Paralympics. The win increased Dame Sarah’s total medal tally to 24.

The University has supported Dame Sarah in her training in the run-up to many of her major successes – and previously also worked with Baroness Grey-Thompson.

Dame Sarah first started using the environmental chamber at the Cheshire campus in the run-up to London 2012 and since then has returned to complete blocks of training around her competition schedule.

Most recently she used the chamber to increase the temperature and humidity to be comparable to the conditions in Rio.

Exercise and Sport Science lecturer Georgina Stebbings has worked with Dame Sarah for the last four years.

She said: “I have been working with Sarah Storey since prior to London 2012, when she first started using our environmental chamber, in the Department of Exercise & Sport Science at the Cheshire campus, to train under hypoxic conditions.

“Exercising in hypoxia is similar to altitude training but the ‘altitude’ is replicated in our chamber by reducing the oxygen content in the air rather than changing the atmospheric pressure, which is what happens when you travel above sea level.”

For each visit, Sarah typically spent an hour in the environmental chamber training on her own bike, which is mounted to a stationary trainer. Depending on the type of session being completed additional tests might be performed to collate some physiological data during particular phases of training.

The Department of Exercise and Sport Science has a 20 year history of supporting Paralympic athletes in the fields of cycling, swimming, wheelchair racing, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis. The English Federation of Disability Sport was based at the Alsager campus for a number of years.

In 1994 a project was developed focusing on wheelchair racing, initially set up as a joint project between Manchester Met University and the British Wheelchair Racing Association. Tanni Grey (as she was known at the time) was one of the athletes that received sport science support, which continued until the 2000 Paralympic games in Sydney.

Both Dame Sarah and Baroness Grey-Thompson have been awarded honorary degrees by the University.

Professor Neil Fowler, Head of the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, said: “We are delighted to see the success of Sarah at the Paralympics. Having supported Sarah’s training over the last two Paralympic cycles it is fantastic to see her break Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson’s record and to become our most decorated Paralympian.

It is with some pride that we can, as a University, reflect on having supported both Tanni and Sarah in their preparations and our involvement in Paralympic sport for over 20 years.”