By Tom Degun

December 23 - Britain's Sarah Storey (pictured) has admitted that it will be tough to qualify for the Paralympics and Olympics at London 2012, although she is refusing to give up on her dream.

Storey, who was born with a deformed left hand, has proved one of Britons most remarkable athletes having successfully competed at the very highest level for nearly two decades.

Before switching to Para-cycling ahead of the Beijing 2008 Paralympics where she claimed two gold medals, Storey - under her maiden name of Bailey - accumulated a total of 16 medals Paralympic medals in swimming events at Barcelona in 1992, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004, five of which were gold.

Storey, whose husband Barney is a successful Para-cycling sprint tandem pilot, has consistently displayed the form that suggests that she can compete closely with the sport’s elite able-bodied riders.

This year, Storey has defended her individual pursuit title at the national championships - open to able-bodied athletes – while the time she rode while winning the individual pursuit in the IPC World Championships in Manchester last month would have placed her second in the able-bodied World Cup event at the same track in October.

Although the Individual Pursuit has been dropped from the Olympic programme for 2012, the woman from Manchester would be targeting a place in the team pursuit event, which has been retained.

Storey told insideworldparasport: "Both the London 2012 Olympics and the Paralympics are a huge goal for me.

"The 2012 Paralympics would be my sixth Games and competing at a home Games would be something truly special to be a part of.

"And competing at the Olympic Games for the first time would be absolutely amazing and although I know I am capable of competing with the best able-bodied athletes, I know it will be extremely tough to qualify for the Olympics as Britain has some of the best riders in the world.

"There is a great team spirit in the camp and we all get along really well but it is also very competitive because you know that if you can beat a lot of the British riders, you can beat anybody in the world."

At 31, Storey is a seasoned competitor however; she revealed that she feels like she is only now approaching the peak of her powers.

She said: "In cycling, most athletes approach their peak in their mid-30s and I still feel like I am very much in the middle of my career.

"I'm in fantastic form at the moment and I am hitting some great times that are even better than the times I produced at the Beijing Paralympics last year.

"Even though the London 2012 Games are obviously the main focus, I would not even rule out competing at the 2016 Games in Rio if I stay can stay fit and healthy.

"But that is a long way off and you are only as good as your next race so the key is to keep trying to improve everyday."

Storey revealed that she does occasionally miss swimming having left the sport following the Athens 2004 Paralympics but says that she does not regret her decision to make the switch.

She said: "I do miss the team spirit and seeing the other girls as we use to get on so well but I still enjoy watching it and looking out for them.

"It was actually my swimming coach Colin Hood who suggested the move as he said to me that I’d achieved everything in the sport and that it might be good for me to look for a new challenge.

"So the move to cycling was partly accidental but it was Colin who gave me the nudge and I am very glad that he did."

Next year, Storey will also be taking part in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain from John’O'Groats to Land's End to help raise money for British athletes competing in London 2012.

Storey said: "I have always wanted the opportunity to do the end to end ride across Britain and so when the opportunity to participate in The Deloitte Ride Across Britain came up - and fitted in with my training ahead of the World Championships - I was delighted to sign up.

"Obviously I will be cycling further than I do in training but I do cycle a lot of long distances out on the road so it will not be too different from what I am use to, though it is still quite a way."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected].

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