Laura Kenny: Why my son Albie motivates me more than medals

The four-time Olympic gold medallist in track cycling could become the most successful British Olympian of all time if she wins all her events at Tokyo 2020. However her main motivation comes from her son Albie, who she has with husband, and fellow Olympic champion, Jason Kenny.

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Laura Kenny is already the most decorated British female Olympian with four gold medals, and this summer she's gunning for even more history.

But when it comes to cycling at Tokyo 2020, her motivations are less about medals and more about making the time away from her son successful.

"Now it's definitely Albie [that motivates me].

"I want to come back having sacrificed time away from him and it be successful," she told Olympics.com.

"I don't want to have gone just for no reason, I don't want to go to an Olympics just to participate.

"I want to go to try and win medals."

A mum, and a role model for women in sport

And 29-year-old Kenny isn't the only Olympic athlete sacrificing time away from their children.

As well as Team GB having a bigger women's contingent than men's for the very first time, they are also in double figures for mums participating.

"I just think to be part of that movement and to be within that team that has finally got more females than males is incredible," she said.

"I think it just shows that women in sport are coming forward, we've got more role models, which I think is showing why there's now more people in sport, which is why there's more places qualified at the Olympics for women."

Competing in the omnium, team pursuit and first-ever women's madison will give Kenny the opportunity to take her gold tally up to seven.

And while Bradley Wiggins' record of being the most decorated British Olympian with eight medals will remain out of reach, she can become the most successful British Olympian of all time if she takes the top spot in all of her events - taking over Wiggins' gold tally (five), as well as Chris Hoy and, her husband, Jason Kenny, who are tied with six golds each.

Laura Kenny of Great Britain poses for a photo to mark the official announcement of the cycling team selected to Team GB for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (Photo by Barrington Coombs/Getty Images for British Olympic Association)
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

How does it change the approach to these Olympics compared to the previous ones for you?

Laura Kenny (LK): I mean, obviously, it's very different. And like you say, when I was at London 2012, I didn't expect anything and no one else did either. Like from the outside world, I was just a young girl just going to race in her first Olympic Games and everything happened so fast. Like, even the build up to London, I just felt like I was in this weird washing machine where I was just like 'bam, bam, bam, bam, bam,' and everything just happened.

I think when I had Albie people thought I was just going to quit

And then obviously in Rio I had a little bit more pressure. And then I think when I had Albie I think people thought I was just going to quit and like I never had that. I just thought, no, like I'm carrying on. I could prove to the world that, you know, mums can be at the Olympics. Jessica Ennis-Hill has been a huge part of me coming back and getting to another Olympic Games. And she'd obviously done it. So I thought, well, she's a role model, you know, I can prove too that it can be done.

And so it's funny, I feel like it's kind of brought a different kind of aspect to it. Like, as much as I think people were like 'Oh how many events are you going for? What event you doing?' and asking me questions about that. It's almost like people aren't expecting me to be the rider was before. So it's a bit funny, I just feel really relaxed. I just feel like, wow, OK, if everyone else feels like that then yeah, that's fine. Let's see what happens.

You wanted to take Albie with you and now I imagine you can't, how is it going to affect you?

LK: I think it took the decision away for us, to be honest. And Jason was never that sure about him coming just because it was a bit complicated. The BOA were being so helpful and they were going to help get him in a hotel because the Marriott is actually right next door to the track. And so he was never going to be able to stay in the village, but he could stay nearby, with our parents. But it was just going to be a bit complicated with where he's staying, who he's staying with. And so once Japan said people who aren't competing can't come, it just took the decision away, so it almost made it a bit easier for us in a way.

But British Cycling have let him come here, so he is actually here on holding camp with us. So we're all standing in little separate lodges. Each team is in a lodge and then we're just in the end lodge with our family, so that's actually quite nice. It will only be the two weeks that we're away, like actually the two weeks of racing. And like I say, in a way it's easier because the decision was made.

Looking at the results at the last track World Championships in Berlin (four medals, seventh in the medal table), Team GB's dominance in the sport seems to be fading away. Why are you confident that you will prove critics wrong once again?

LK: British cycling work on a four year plan like we always have done and we've always had these dips. So when they won in Beijing, it was massive. It was the first time we had any sort of aerodynamic work done, we were the first quarter ever put anything into any money into the kit and developing our own kit rather than just using the stuff that's off the shelf.

And so once 2008 was over, I think everyone thought, oh, we've done this too early because all the funding was based around London 2012. So then London 2012 comes around, pressure's on to try and get it right, and then it works there. And then post 2012, we see at the massive dip and we have the whole British cycling in the newspapers and stuff and just the whole negative stories around it and I think people thought, well, how on earth can they possibly deal with all of this? And how can we possibly go to the Olympics? And it was a fact that we just didn't even question it. Like, I never even thought we won't do this. I just thought everything's in place. Like, we can just go from there and we'd obviously trained really hard.

This year will be 'tougher'

Worlds that year, so 2016, we didn't clean sweep everything. And our team pursuit, I know personally, wasn't very good. We came third and we'd gone much better in training, it just didn't go right on the day. And so I just think everything was in place. We knew how we were going and then obviously 2016 we were able to say, we'll see and you lot thought we wouldn't succeed, and we did. And it's the same again. I mean this time I do think it will be tougher and I think it's very different now. The omnium obviously is an event that's very different, that's changed. And the fact that like the innovation in the equipment and what people wear, what people use is very different.

We've had different rules that people have been able to see our equipment, whereas before it was so kept secret, I mean, it was just mental pre-Rio in terms of getting everything even on time. I'd never even ridden my spare bike before Rio, it was just like, yep, there is one. So it's just different. It's just a different ball game now. So I do think it's going to be a lot more spread, the medals are going to be a lot more spread across nations this time around.