By Gary Anderson

September 24 - British Cycling is looking for the next Sarah StoreyBritish Cycling has today launched a new talent identification drive in an effort to unearth potential female Para-cycling medallists for Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.

The national governing body is seeking out UK-passport holding women aged 16 years and over, across all Para-cycling classifications, from those with a minor or major impairment to a limb, to those who are visually impaired or have spinal injuries.

Amputees or women with cerebral palsy are also encouraged to get in touch with British Cycling, which will be holding a number of Talent Assessment events in October.

The new drive is being backed by London 2012 road race time trial silver medallist Karen Darke.

"There is no better feeling than being on a podium at a Paralympic Games and feeling an immense sense of pride and achievement at being crowned the world's best," said Darke, who was became Para-triathlon world champion in 2009 and again in 2012.

"With a commitment and drive to succeed at the highest level, a structured programme and a great team behind you, there really is no limit to what can be done and I'd advise all sporty women and girls out there to dream big.

"There is nothing to lose in applying to British Cycling and so, so much to be gained."

British women won eight Para-cycling medals at London 2012, including four golds for dame Sarah Storey, and British Cycling's Paralympic talent and development manager, Harriet Gordon believes that there are young women athletes out there who will be inspired by the achievements of Britain's Paralympians and have the talent and potential to perform on the biggest stage.

London 2012 silver medallist Karen Darke is encouraging young female riders to get involved in Paralympic cyclingLondon 2012 silver medallist Karen Darke is encouraging young female riders to get involved in Paralympic cycling

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for women and girls with an impairment to see if they've got what it takes to be part of a gold medal winning programme for Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020," she said.

"We're the best Para-cycling nation in the world and I'd strongly recommend that sporty women get in touch.

"We're especially keen to hear from women who competed in sport before an accident and might be ready to give it another shot.

"Similarly, friends or family members of women with potential are invited to get in touch to put them forward.

"In just three years time in Rio it could just turn out to be the best decision they've ever made."

One such athlete is 17-year-old visually impaired Sophie Thornhill from Stockport who joined the Paralympic Development Programme in May 2013, and is piloted by Megan Boyd who she met through her local cycling club.

"I was born with Oculocutaneous albinism which basically means I've got about 10 per cent of my sight," she said.

"My ultimate goal is to compete at the Paralympics in Rio, but I'd also like to go to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year.

"This year, my target is the National Track Championships.

"I'd like to get a couple of national titles."

Women and girls who meet the criteria should email [email protected] with their name, phone number, and a brief description of their impairment.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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