Photography by Lilly Shields
Dame Sarah Storey is the most successful British Paralympian of all time winning an astonishing 17 gold medals. Sarah competed as a swimmer at four Paralympic Games before switching to cycling in 2005. In total she has won 28 Paralympic medals at eight games.
Sarah joined Greater Manchester Combined Authority as the city-region’s second Active Travel Commissioner, appointed by Mayor Andy Burnham in Spring 2022. Her active travel mission for Greater Manchester focuses on five pillars: infrastructure delivery; home to school travel; cycle hire & access to cycles; integration with public transport and road danger reduction.
Dame Sarah Storey, Rio 2016 (Friedemann Vogel/Getty)
Sarah was born Sarah Bailey in Eccles, Salford in 1977. Born with a limb abnormality, she joined her first swimming club at the age of ten and began her Paralympic swimming career in 1992 in Barcelona aged 14, winning two golds, three silvers and a bronze. Sarah continued swimming in the next three Paralympic Games and later switched cycling in 2005.
Sarah in the pool (Getty Images)
Sarah on the cycle track (Getty Images)
Since making that career move, she has added to her swimming golds with a further 12 cycling titles at the Paralympics of 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020. Sarah’s seventeen Paralympic gold medals make her the most successful British Paralympian of all time. Other major achievements include being a 41-time World champion (6 in swimming and 35 in cycling). Sarah updated this as the tally has grown from 29 world titles
Sarah’s latest challenge is her role as Greater Manchester’s Active Travel Commissioner. She advises the Mayor on the Bee Network active travel vision: a £1.5bn plan to create 1,800 miles of routes to connect every area and community in Greater Manchester, by integrating cycling, walking and wheeling with other public transport modes and making it easy, safe and attractive for people to travel on foot or by bike for everyday trips.
Getting physically active is a great way to improve both physical health and mental wellbeing, and cycling and walking short, everyday journeys are some of the easiest ways to do it. Local communities here are already reaping the benefits that quality, safer and more connected walking and cycling routes bring, but there is so much more to come.
Sarah’s role works closely with the region's Transport Commissioner, Vernon Everitt, providing advice to the Mayor and working with Transport for Greater Manchester, Local Authority Leaders, Greater Manchester Police and other key delivery partners to enable improved provision and access to active travel in the city-region.
As well as being an everyday cyclist, Sarah is a mum of two who walks and cycles with her children regularly.
Sarah has received two Honorary Degrees from MMU and was appointed MBE in 1998 "for services to Swimming for People with Disabilities". She was appointed OBE in 2009 "for services to Disabled Sport" and in 2012 was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Manchester. Following the 2012 London Games, Sarah was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours "for services to para-cycling".
Sarah delivering her vision at the 'Big Active Conversation' in 2022
Sarah receives her DBE from the King
THE SHOOT: Oxford Road, Manchester
The cycle lane and the Bee Network cycle hire station in the city's busy university district
Student reflection: Lilly Shields
The shoot with Dame Sarah Storey was another wonderful opportunity to test my photography skills. The photography took place on Oxford Rd in the city’s busy student district. Sarah chose the location for its cycle lanes and Bee cycle hire stations, these link to Sarah’s role of Active Travel Commissioner.
She arrived on her bike in cycling gear, so my first shots of her were posed on her bike in the cycle lane. Sarah was friendly and accommodating and performed a number of ride-pasts so I could grab an action shot. The area was extremely busy, so I had to be patient as people moved through my shots. The weather was overcast, so I had to carefully control my camera to make sure I captured all the detail. Sarah changed out of her cycling gear and into casual outdoor clothes for the second part of the shoot which concentrated on the Bee Bike hire station. Here I managed to get some interesting images, shooting between and through the handle bars of the Bee Bikes.
Photographing Sarah was a very rewarding experience and being part of the Greater Mancunians project again was another huge opportunity to practise my photography and communication skills.