Tokyo 2020 - ‘I’m living with the person I’m trying to beat!’ - Laura Kenny on eclipsing husband Jason’s Olympic golds
The four-time Olympic champion could become Britain’s all-time record gold medallist in Japan. If she continues her 100% record in events at the Games, her tally would go to seven - one ahead of the landmark shared by Sir Chris Hoy and her husband - who will be trying to increase his own medal count. But Laura says she is barely thinking about that - after earning selection for her third Games.
Laura Kenny will be looking to increase her tally of four Olympic gold medals
Britain’s most successful female Olympian, Laura Kenny, says she is barely thinking about making more history at Tokyo 2020 - but admits it is hard to escape the fact that she is targeting husband Jason Kenny’s record of six gold medals.
The four-time Olympic champion has a 100% record at the Games and has confirmed she will compete in three events in Japan - the team pursuit, omnium, and the madison with Katie Archibald.
Continuing her extraordinary Olympic performances would take her above Sir Chris Hoy and her husband’s British record of six golds, although Jason will be looking to increase his own haul. But she insists it is not something which is really on her mind, despite being constantly reminded.
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“I don’t really think about it, I just go in to do a bike race,” she said.
“When you’re in that velodrome, you could literally be anywhere and we’re just preparing for the race in the same way we would for any other.
“It was actually in Rio when someone said ‘you realise no female has ever won more gold medals’ and I was like, no, I hadn’t realised!
Obviously this one, a lot of people have told me - I am living with the person I’m trying to beat! But I don’t really think about it.
Kenny is an athlete who has perhaps benefited more than most from the Olympics being postponed for a year, having broken her shoulder and arm in crashes just months before when the Games were scheduled for last summer.
“Covid has been such a terrible thing for so many people, and I would never have wished this on the world,” she said.
“For me as an athlete, having this extra year has just helped me. When you’re trying to train for an Olympics, you want to think when you get there you are physically at your best, and I would have been okay.
“I put my hat in the ring for three events. How I would have been selected for that madison I do not know, I just wouldn’t have had the opportunities I needed.
“It was June last year, by the time I realised I could actually do a madison change, and in the run up to the Games I want to be at my best, I don’t just want to be at an Olympics.”
Priorities have changed for Kenny since Rio 2016, with the birth of her son Albie, who will turn four this August. Track cycling’s golden couple will be away from him for the longest time they ever have been by going to the Olympics, as he is not allowed to travel due to a ban on overseas spectators put in place by the Japanese government. But she admits it was a concern anyway - and says she now has his childcare planned to the smallest detail.
“British Cycling have been great in terms of allowing him to come to our holding camp, so he’s going to come to Wales with us, with our parents obviously there to help look after him - but after that they’ll drive home and we’ll go off to Tokyo.
“In a funny way it almost took making a decision out of it. There’s been two flights now where athletes have come back from places and had to self isolate.
To have that risk, knowing it’s your family and you could do nothing about whether he has to isolate out there, because we wouldn’t be on the flight with him, we were umming and ahing anyway so in a funny way it took the decision out of it.
“I’m an organiser, I have no worries telling people that we need help here, there and everywhere, it’s great because both sets of grandparents are retired.
“It’s funny actually, I sat down with Jessica Ennis-Hill when I was pregnant and she told me she was pregnant with her second baby and she said to me, ‘you need to make sure you have a timetable, that you have everyone around you exactly when you need them’, and I thought ‘how on earth am I going to tell my parents I need you here at this time’ and Jason’s parents ‘I need you here at that time’, it doesn’t sound very me, that.
“But then actually it came very easily to me! I do like organising people as it happens, and they’ve just been great, we couldn’t have done it without them. This year’s been a little bit easier because he’s started nursery as well, he starts school in September, so this year has definitely been easier!”
Kenny says having Albie has made her a more relaxed athlete, as she has fewer opportunities to over analyse her performances in training as soon as he gets home from the velodrome. Removing herself from the sport works well for her - but she says he is only now starting to realise what she does for a living.
“I don’t think he understands the Olympics, he knows that bike races you try to win,” she said.
But they’ve been doing balance bike sessions at the track with their nursery, and when he came back, because they’ve obviously been watching videos of track races, he said ‘mummy, I know what you do at work’ and I said ‘oh right?’ and he said ‘you ride a bike’.
“That was the first time he had any association that is what I do. He knows I have bikes, because when I go out he says ‘which colour are you going on today?’ and so he has an interest that we ride bikes but he’s never actually said, ‘oh I get it, I know now that’s what you go and do’.”