Britain's greatest ever Paralympian, Dame Sarah Storey, told a packed audience at the King's School 'Never wonder…what if?'
Speaking as part of the School's 'Wellbeing Day', the veteran of eight Paralympics told an awe-inspired audience of boys and girls aged between 8 and 12, "Don't think 'What If I had tried harder, done that extra practice session, gone that extra mile.' Never allow yourself to fail for want of practice and hard work."
"If you feel upset when you fail, then let that build your determination and, most importantly, don't be down-hearted, just think of failing as an opportunity to learn where to improve."
Sarah, who began swimming seriously at Stockport Metro aged 10, remembers being told, "I'm sorry but you're a bit too old to start."
"Well I wasn't going to let that stop me and I tried all the harder," said Sarah, going on to tell her audience of the 5am starts in Grand Central Pool, then going back after school to swim often until 7.30pm, before finally getting down to her homework. “I did eight or nine training sessions every week, clocking up over 20 hours a week all through my teenage years, swimming up and down that black line to build my strength and technique."
That dedication certainly paid off with the young Sarah going on to win two gold medals, first in swimming, before remarkably transferring to cycling and winning a further 12 gold medals. For good measure there have also been a further eight silver and three bronze medals in swimming, "Sorry I only have gold medals in cycling” she smiled, with 40 world titles and 77 world records across both sports.
There could be more to come as she revealed to the King's pupils, "I definitely want to go to Paris in 2024, mainly because in Tokyo I felt so isolated due to COVID so it would be nice to experience that genuine Olympic atmosphere again."
Dame Sarah answered pupils’ questions about life on the road and her how she balances her sporting and family lives, now she has two children, saying it had improved her chances. "Now I have a daughter and a son and we go on the road to all the major meetings together, I have a distraction. Instead of fretting and maybe getting too nervous before an event we can just play together."
She told the children, who had scores of questions after her talk and gave her a tremendous ovation, "Determination, hard work, practice and resilience aren't just reserved for sport but should be transferrable skills across all aspects of your life."
Mrs Cookson, Principal of King's Infant & Junior Division, said: "It was an incredible treat for our children to listen to and learn from a woman who can only be described as a living legend, who for all her stunning achievements is so down to earth and most proud of being a lovely mum."
Dame Sarah is pictured with the latest three of her 14 gold medals, from Tokyo, with young King's sportspeople Louisa, Mason and Xanthe.