Dame Laura Kenny: The Springsteen fan who became one of cycling’s rock stars

By Sports Desk March 18, 2024

Dame Laura Kenny has always been able to light up any room she steps into, and never more than when she is in a velodrome.

Bright and bubbly, she became the face of British Cycling’s more than decade-long dominance on the track from the moment Kenny, then Trott, announced her talent to the wider world at London 2012.

The two Olympic gold medals she won barely 20 miles from her childhood home in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, were the first of five that made her Britain’s most successful female Olympian, and the most successful female Olympic cyclist on the planet.

But on Monday she announced it will be five and out, calling time on her decorated career at the age of 31, ending outside chances she may ride at the Paris Games.

Already in a hurry, Laura Trott was born a month prematurely with a collapsed lung. Diagnosed with asthma, she was advised to take up sport to regulate her breathing.

She started trampolining but switched to cycling after mum Glenda began riding to lose weight. Laura and her sister Emma went along – and both made careers out of it, Emma as a road rider and coach, and Laura as one of the greatest track stars the sport has ever seen.

She started winning races at her local track, Welwyn, aged eight, and got hooked on success. A world junior omnium title earned her a place on Britain’s senior roster and aged only 18 she was part of the team pursuit squad that won European gold.

Having set herself a goal of making the Rio Games in 2016, Kenny was on her way to the London Olympics.

There was an inevitability to winning team pursuit gold – the world record was broken all six times Trott teamed up with Joanna Rowsell and Dani King (nee Rowe). Two days later, Kenny came from behind to claim omnium gold as well.

That made her Britain’s second double champion of the Games after Jason Kenny. A day later the pair were seen kissing as they sat behind David Beckham at the beach volleyball. Cycling had its new golden couple.

After they replicated their London success in Rio – Laura winning two golds and Jason three – they got married close to home in Cheshire.

They say opposites attract, and if Jason is a self-professed “miserable sod”, Laura is the charismatic marketer’s dream with the success to match. “It was just like yin and yang,” Laura said.

Thoughts like this tumble out of Kenny every time she sits down for an interview. She might want to talk about her love of Bruce Springsteen’s music, or how she once saw her grandmother’s ghost, or how she and Jason ended up adopting a family of ducks that came into their garden.

But she is just as open about the challenges she has faced, and recent years have been an emotional rollercoaster.

A year after Rio, Laura gave birth to son Albie. While Jason quietly retired – a decision he reversed before even announcing it – Laura was clear she intended to return in time for Tokyo.

She did so, but perhaps needed the Covid-enforced postponement of the Games to recover from a string of injuries suffered in early 2020. In Tokyo, Britain’s dominance in the velodrome came under increasing threat, and they settled for silver in the team pursuit.

Kenny’s fifth gold came alongside Katie Archibald in the first ever women’s Madison at an Olympics, but she lost her omnium crown after a heavy crash in the scratch race.

That disappointment was nothing compared to the trauma that was to come. In November, Kenny suffered a miscarriage. Then in January she had an ectopic pregnancy and lost a fallopian tube during emergency surgery.

She did not reveal either until she had just won team pursuit silver at the Nations Cup in Glasgow, but in characteristic fashion she spoke openly of the impact – how she questioned her future in the sport but used cycling as a her safety blanket.

She surprised herself with Commonwealth Gold in the summer of 2022 before the healthy arrival of a second son, Monty, in 2023 gave Kenny the sign she needed to know it was time to retire.

Related items

  • On this day 2013: Six-time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy announces retirement On this day 2013: Six-time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy announces retirement

    Six-time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy announced his retirement from competitive cycling 11 years ago, admitting: “I know it is the right decision.”

    The 37-year-old Scot had been contemplating continuing until the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow but revealed he was quitting the sport at a press conference in Edinburgh on April 18, 2013.

    Hoy was Britain’s most decorated Olympian after his haul of two gold medals at London 2012 saw him surpass rower Sir Steve Redgrave’s record of five, although he was overtaken by former team-mate Sir Jason Kenny in 2021.

    In explaining his decision, Hoy said: “I think in sport at the highest level you’re dealing in such small margins and you can tell when you’re good but not good enough.

    “It was very emotional coming in there (to the press conference) and I was trying not to watch the video montage with the sad music.

    “I don’t want it to be a sad moment.

    “I want to celebrate it and be happy because I know it is the right decision.

    “It’s a decision that I didn’t take lightly and I thought about it very hard.”

    As well as six Olympic titles, Hoy’s 13-year career featured 11 world titles and two Commonwealth crowns.

    Hoy’s final race was the Olympic Keirin final on August 7, 2012 – on the final day of the London 2012 track programme.

    Following retirement, Hoy pursued his passion for motorsport, including competing in the Le Mans 24 Hours, while he has also written children’s books.

    In February 2024, the 48-year-old announced he was undergoing treatment for cancer.

  • Paul extends rich form with double gold; Browne, Campbell also among T&T's medals at PanAm Track Cycling Champs Paul extends rich form with double gold; Browne, Campbell also among T&T's medals at PanAm Track Cycling Champs

    Trinidad and Tobago’s ace cyclist Nicholas Paul continued his rich early season form as he wrapped up another double gold medal-winning outing at the just-concluded Pan American Track Cycling Championships in Los Angeles, California.

    Paul’s medals were won in his customary events, the men's Keirin and Sprint, and followed his fairly successful outing at the UCI Championships in Hong Kong where he recovered from a two-cycle collision in the Keirin to win the Sprint.

    The 23-year-old again expressed gratitude for the continued support as he represents the twin island republic with much gusto.

    “It is always an honour to represent my country and the Pan American region. Thank you to everyone for all the love and continued support. The Journey continues and the next stop will be the Nations Cup in Milton, Canada. So, I just want to continue putting in the hard work and let it show in my performances,” Paul said.

    In the Keirin, Paul topped Colombia’s Kevin Quintero, while another Trinidad and Tobago cyclist Kwesi Browne copped bronze.

    However, it took a photo-finish to separate Paul and another Colombian Cristian Ortega for the Sprint crown. Paul bettered his South American rival in the first ride before edging ahead in the second ride on the line by millimeters to retain his title.

    Meanwhile, Akil Campbell was also among the medals, as he won a bronze medal in the men's scratch race.

    In other results at the meet, Alexi Ramirez finished eighth in the women's elimination race and in the women's scratch race, while Makaira Wallace and Phoebe Sandy placed 13th and 17th in the women's sprint qualification, respectively.

  • On this day in 2018: Scotland’s Katie Archibald wins Commonwealth Games gold On this day in 2018: Scotland’s Katie Archibald wins Commonwealth Games gold

    Scotland’s Katie Archibald added Commonwealth champion to her long list of accolades on this day in 2018.

    Archibald, an Olympic, world and European champion in various disciplines, took gold in the women’s individual pursuit in Brisbane, having broken the Games record in a blistering qualifying session.

    Her only previous Commonwealth medal was the bronze she won on home soil in the points race in Glasgow four years earlier.

    Archibald, then aged 24, said before racing began gold was the only colour she wanted and swiftly delivered, covering the 3,000m distance in three minutes 26.088 seconds to beat Australian Rebecca Wiasak.

    She had set the record at 3:24.119 in a qualifying session which saw three riders go under the previous record set by England’s Joanna Rowsell Shand in Glasgow.

    “It means a lot, especially in the individual pursuit because it’s not an Olympic event,” said Archibald. “2014 always stands out as a big year for Joanna Rowsell to kind of echo, because she had the title and the Games record.

    “You look at the success she carried from that point in her career. I’d be very proud.”

    Fired up by his sister’s performance, Archibald’s brother John then added another medal to Scotland’s tally with silver in the men’s 4,000m individual pursuit as England’s Charlie Tanfield clinched gold.

    “I watched her heat run and the pressure was on her,” said John Archibald.

    “The Commonwealth Games record went and they all went better than her personal best so she had her back against the wall but she pulled out and delivered on the day and that got me going.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.