Complacency not an option for Kenny

As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics creep ever closer so does this discussion of Great Britain's biggest medal hopefuls; and any conversation not including Laura Kenny is, for many, a conversation not worth having.

Few will doubt that Kenny, Team GB’s most successful female Olympian, will be on the plane to Tokyo in 2020, but testament to the 27-year-old’s nature, she refuses to make any assumptions.

Kenny has her eyes firmly set on October's European Championships in Holland, but before then, she took some time out to focus on a different strand of her sporting responsibilities – the I Am Team GB campaign.

Amidst her hectic schedule in cycling and motherhood, Kenny, Toyota ambassador for the campaign, spent some time at London’s Westfield on Saturday to take part in the Nation’s Biggest Sports Day: a day of sport and physical activity including over 400 events across the UK.

The I Am Team GB campaign aims to inspire people to take part in sport and physical activity for at least one day and Kenny, who was inspired into sport herself by her own mother, was proud to be present to help others discover the positive impact sport can have on their daily lives.

“I teamed up with Toyota and Team GB to help put on the nation’s biggest sport’s day – and it’s exactly what it says on the tin,” said Kenny.

“We wanted to get as many people as possible active on one day. We had loads of activities going on at Westfield, table tennis, swingball, dance – everything you could think of.

“I took part in the sessions and spent a lot of time in the kids’ zone. It was fantastic to see so many people taking part. We had a 10-year-old boy who was football mad helping a two-year-old trying to get a hoop over a pole.

“There really is something for everyone to get involved with. It’s important to get children active too. I’ve thought a lot more about that ever since I became a mother to Albie.

“I know the benefits exercise gives me – I feel more relaxed and happier, like I’ve achieved something. Whether I’m cycling or just walking the dog, I just feel better in myself and I want everybody to experience that same feeling.”

The track cycling season is on the horizon and although seven-time world and 11-time European champion Kenny may be no stranger to major international events, she knows that this time, with the likes of Katie Archibald and Elinor Barker in the ranks, her starting line spot for Tokyo is far from safe.

“First things first, I’ve got to try and get selected for the Europeans” said Kenny.

“It’s funny because my biggest rivals at the Europeans come from within my own team, but that competition motivates my training.

“There is such a high standard of talent in the British cycling team and I think that’s the reason why the women’s pursuit team has always been so strong.

“You’re never guaranteed to be in that team, you have to fight for that space – every time, no matter who you are.

“The team has so much talent in it, so when you do make it to the start line, you know you’re racing with the very best.

“There is no other team in the world like British cycling when there’s year to go until the Olympics.

“The whole team comes together and buys into the same programme – the same goal.

“I feel like we’re going in that direction now and will build on that momentum that we always have.

“It’s funny because cycling is in the summer Olympics, but really, it’s a winter sport so I’ve been training really hard all summer to get selected for the start of the season.

“I feel relaxed at the minute because I think I’ve had a good balance this summer, but we’ll have to wait and see what October has in store.”

It has been far from a simple ride for Kenny since she won team pursuit and omnium golds at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Returning to peak fitness and being able to even consider Tokyo two years on from giving birth to her son Albie in August 2017 is an unthinkable feat for most athletes, but Kenny is confident her journey has changed her perspective on elite sport for the better.

“I see everything completely different now,” added Kenny.

“As an athlete, you can get too worked up by every result and every training session. I’m not saying they’re not important, of course they are, but sometimes you have to take a step back and see it for what it is.

“I think that’s what Albie has brought to me, and to Jason as well.

“It’s forced us to adapt and we’re a lot more relaxed about the process now.

“We’ve had a great family balance with training and looking after him. We have to be really organised and decide the exact times we are going to train so someone can look after him.

“If I’m not training, I’m looking after him – it’s straight into mum and dad mode! That’s how I always saw it and I think it’s had a real positive effect in teaching us what is most important in life.”

Sportsbeat 2019