Laura Kenny: Britain's most successful female Olympian retires from cycling

Dame Laura Kenny, Britain’s most successful female Olympian, has announced her retirement from cycling.

The 31-year-old won five Olympic golds and seven World Championship titles in a distinguished career on the track.

She gave birth to her second child in July and had previously been targeting a fourth Olympics in Paris this year.

In an exclusive interview with BBC Breakfast, Kenny said: “I always knew deep down I would know when the right time was.

“I have had an absolute blast but now is the time for me to hang that bike up.”

Kenny, married to former cyclist Sir Jason Kenny – who is the most decorated British Olympian – added: “It’s been in my head a little while, the sacrifices of leaving the children and your family at home are really quite big and it really is a big decision to make.

“More and more, I was struggling to do that. More people asking me what races was I doing, what training camps was I going on – I didn’t want to go ultimately and that’s what it came down to.

“I knew the minute I was getting those feelings. Once I said to Jase, ‘I don’t think I want to ride a bike anymore’, I started to feel relief.”

Kenny gave birth to her first son, Albie, in 2017 after which she returned to cycling, eager to prove athletes could juggle the demands of sport with motherhood.

After a miscarriage in late 2021 and an ectopic pregnancy just months later, the Kennys welcomed their second son, Monty, in 2023.

Earlier in March, British Cycling performance director Stephen Park said Kenny had only a “slim chance” of competing in Paris.

“I was getting these hesitant feelings,” said Kenny.

“Going on to win another gold medal, as much as I would love to do that, it wasn’t giving me the energy I wanted anymore, it just wasn’t.

“I wasn’t thinking, ‘I really want to go on and win one’. I was thinking, ‘I really want to stay at home with the children’.”

Kenny’s glittering career

Already a three-time world champion by that point, Kenny burst into the public consciousness by winning gold in the women’s omnium and team pursuit at the London 2012 Olympics.

Kenny said that was the “absolute highlight” of her career, with the 2012 Games an “insane” two weeks during which her relationship with Jason also became public.

“I never thought I would go to a home games, let alone go on to win two gold medals.

“When I look back, I’m like ‘wow, those two weeks did really change my life’.”

She repeated the omnium and team pursuit double four years later at the Rio Games, becoming the first British woman to win four Olympic titles.

At the Tokyo Olympics – delayed to 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic – Kenny won team pursuit silver, before she and Katie Archibald became the first Olympic champions in the women’s madison, a new event at that year’s Games.

It made Kenny the first British woman to win a gold medal at three consecutive Olympics and the most successful female cyclist in Games history.

A fourth Olympics in 2024 was her plan but Kenny had yet to return to team training before announcing her retirement. April’s Track Nations Cup in Canada would have been her last opportunity to earn the points needed to qualify.

She won her last world champion rainbow jersey in 2016, on the London track where she made her name, in the omnium and scratch race.

Kenny is also a 14-time European champion and won three medals, including two golds, at the Commonwealth Games.

The second of those golds, in the scratch race in Birmingham in 2022, came a day after she thought it would be her final race amid a “serious confidence crisis”.

What’s next?

Kenny, made a Dame in the 2021 New Year’s Honours, said she was “open to doing anything and everything” in the next chapter of her life.

As for this summer’s Olympics, Kenny said she hopes to be at the Games “in some capacity”.

Speaking earlier in March, before the news of Kenny’s retirement, Park said he believed she would have “an ongoing involvement” with the GB cycling team “for years to come”.

“There’s nothing set in stone but there are things I’m so interested in doing,” said Kenny.

“Something to help the younger generation, whether that could be some kind of academy.

“I could never be a coach because that’s just too much pressure for me, but maybe something in the background that would help the youngsters have the opportunities I had.”

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