Team GB’s most decorated Olympian, Sir Jason Kenny, has brought the curtain down on a glittering career on the track by announcing his retirement from cycling.
The 33-year-old won the last of his seven gold medals on the final day of Tokyo 2020, defending his keirin crown in style to move past his former teammate Sir Chris Hoy’s tally of six Olympic titles.
No British athlete can match either Kenny’s tally of Olympic golds (seven) or overall medals (nine), the Bolton rider having topped podiums at four separate Games stretching back to Beijing 2008.
Kenny received a knighthood in the 2022 New Year’s Honours list and will now focus his attentions on continuing Team GB's success on the track from the other side of the fence having accepted a coaching role with British Cycling.
Kenny said: "It wasn't an easy decision. I genuinely wanted to carry on to Paris, but I creak quite a lot these days and I always knew I wanted to go into coaching off the back of it, and this opportunity came along. "I am a little bit sad to be honest because all I've known is riding and competing, but I'm quite excited to get stuck into the job."
"The job ad came up and I ummed and ahed a bit," added Kenny. "I was full-time training at the time, but I've started to ache a lot more these days. "I thought, I don't even know if I'm going to make it to Paris, so I could commit for three years and get nothing out of it. "This opportunity might not come here again. If they got a good coach they could be in the role for potentially 10 years, so I thought I'd go for it now...I think if I hadn't got the job I would have carried on (racing) in all likelihood."
Born in Farnworth, Kenny discovered track cycling at the National Cycling Centre in nearby Manchester and his potential was quickly identified.
Having won junior world titles as a teenager, Kenny made his World Championship bow in 2008 – a year which also marked the start of his Olympic odyssey.
A first Olympic gold arrived at the age of just 20, Kenny joining forces with Hoy and Jamie Staff to claim team sprint glory, and he also returned from Beijing with a silver medal in the men’s sprint after being beaten by Hoy in the final.
Expectations were high four years later and Kenny rose to the occasion, proving one of the undoubted stars of London 2012.
Team GB’s team sprint gold was retained, Kenny, Hoy and Philip Hindes setting a world record in the process, and he later upgraded his men’s sprint silver to gold courtesy of a memorable victory over Grégory Baugé in the final, Kenny having set an Olympic record in qualifying.
Three more golds followed in Rio, with Kenny by now an unstoppable force on the track. The start of his hat-trick came in the team sprint, this time alongside Hindes and Callum Skinner, as Kenny became the sixth Briton to win an Olympic gold in the same event at three successive Games.
Next up was the men’s sprint, Kenny defeating compatriot Skinner in the final, before he rounded off a remarkable week by claiming gold in a dramatic keirin to draw level with Hoy on six Olympic golds and become just the second British athlete since 1908 to win three golds at the same Games.
Kenny returned to defend his keirin crown at the delayed Tokyo Games five years later, when he produced one of the most remarkable performances of his storied career.
"That keirin in Tokyo was special to me," he said. "It was an amazing race. If you could pick one to end on, that would always be. That did play a small part in it. That will be my last ever race, to finish on something so special on the last day of the Olympics."
The Brit raced away from the chasing pack with three laps to go, maintaining his searing pace to enter the record books as his country’s most successful Olympian of all time.
“Seven gold medals is really special, when you look back on the ones you have already got it seems pretty easy. Then when you try and get more, you remember how hard it is,” said Kenny, whose keirin success also saw him surpass Sir Bradley Wiggins’ total of eight Olympic medals – which he had equalled when taking team sprint silver in the Japanese capital five days earlier.
He continued: "I just did my best and loved the process of getting to that point where you can have that special moment every four years. That's always been my passion.
"Even now, I'm diving straight into this next role and trying to help support the lads, most of whom are at the start of their journeys. Hopefully I can help give them as good an experience as I've had."
Kenny, also a three-time world champion, is one half of the most decorated couple in British Olympic history, wife Laura having earned her fifth Olympic gold in Tokyo before carrying the union flag at the closing ceremony. Their first child, Albie, was born in August 2017.
And Kenny admitted his decision to retire will take time to get used to.
"When you're riding, you have a lot of free time," he said. "You can only train so much, but you can't use it for anything. It's recovery. I'll be hopefully less tired all the time.
"I can have a pasty for lunch because later while I'm working I'm not going on the track and won't throw it up. I can go and do gardening without thinking I'll be knackered at training."
He added: "That's going to change now Laura's carrying on and I'm stopping. That's going to be a new dynamic in our house.
"Living with a competing athlete is always challenging but it's also been good that we've been able to go through it together, grow together and go to the races together and spend all that really special time that's normally away from your family.
"It's been really special, we've been really lucky."
Kenny has been announced as the new Podium Men’s Sprint Coach for the Great Britain Cycling Team with immediate effect, and will now be charged with helping the men’s sprint team continue their preparations for Paris 2024.
British Cycling Performance Director, Stephen Park CBE, said: “To win an Olympic medal of any colour is a magnificent achievement, but it’s almost impossible to comprehend the level of talent, dedication and resilience needed to top the podium seven times across four Olympic Games.
“In many ways Jason’s final race, the Tokyo keirin, was the perfect embodiment of all that has made him such a joy to watch. Of the millions watching worldwide I don’t think any could have foreseen the guile and explosive power which saw him blaze to victory, and I can think of no better way to call time on such a wonderful career.
“It goes without saying that Jason has made a magnificent contribution to our team, and I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to hold on to all of that knowledge and experience as he embarks on his career as a coach. We understand the vital importance of developing great riders to become great coaches, and we look forward to working with Jason as he develops his own style to support the medal ambitions of others over the years ahead.”
Sr Hugh Robertson, Chair of the BOA, said: “I have known and admired Jason Kenny for many years. He is our most decorated Olympian and one of our most outstanding personalities.
“He has been a huge part of both Team GB and our wider Olympic family and I am delighted that he will continue to be involved with British Cycling and Team GB.”
Andy Anson, CEO of the BOA, said: "I would like to congratulate Jason Kenny on a sensational cycling career. It is hard to imagine anyone surpassing his achievement of being our most decorated British Olympian, and we will forever be in awe of his contribution to Team GB. As one of the fortunate few to be there, his keirin gold medal in Tokyo was one of the great moments of Olympic sport - it is so fitting he won the event in Japan and did so in his own inimitable style."
Mark England, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Chef de Mission, said: "I would like to thank Jason on behalf of the whole of Team GB, and indeed the nation, which took such great pleasure in watching him ride at four successive Olympic Games. I am fortunate enough to have worked with him since Beijing 2008, and a more humble – what-you-see-is-what-you-get – person you could not wish to meet."