‘End of an era’ - Dame Laura Kenny opens up about why she is retiring from cycling

Virgin Radio

19 Mar 2024, 12:25

Britain’s most successful female Olympian, Dame Laura Kenny, has spoken to Chris Evans about her decision to call it a day.

Since first appearing at the European Track Championships in 2010, she has won five Olympic Gold Medals, seven World Championships, 14 European Championships and two Commonwealth Games titles, as part of a total of 34 medals. Joining the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with webuyanycar, she explained: “It's an end of an era for me, but it didn't really feel as big a deal, I don't think, as everyone thought it was going to be for me.”

She added: “I always kind of thought I would know. Like, I'd get that feeling. And I just did.” 

Before announcing her retirement, Laura had been targeting a fourth Olympics in Paris this year. Explaining that she “only made this decision 10 days ago,” she explained: “I literally mean, I stopped training 10 days ago.”

The Team GB champion revealed: “I'm not the type of person to waste people's time. As an athlete, I'm in. I am fully in. And I just wasn't in. I was done.”

Laura is married to fellow cyclist, Sir Jason Kenny, the most decorated British Olympian. In February 2022 Jason retired from racing to move into British Cycling coaching. Telling Chris “she’d spoken to Jason a lot" about her decision to pack it in as well, Laura said: “It is definitely my decision. But obviously Jason had been through it. He had to make the choice two years ago now. So I obviously knew the feelings and the process that he had gone through to get to make that decision. And so I did, obviously I spoke to him loads about it. Because the one thing that he said to me is you've got to remember, as an athlete, when you say you're retiring, it's done. It's not like you can have a three-year break and come back to it. You're finishing, because there's no way you're getting back to the form that you were at.

“You’re stopping halfway up a mountain, because that mountain keeps getting bigger, because the times are always getting faster. So he was like, you've just got to make sure that you're definitely making the right decision. And like I say, I was. I really was.”

Together the cycling stars have two sons, Albie (born in 2017) and Monty (born last year). She revealed what her husband said to her “From when Monty arrived, our second little boy, he knew,” Laura said of Jason. “Because he said I was just acting really differently… basically being a mum before I was an athlete. Whereas Albie’s journey was very different. Because I was already committing to that, I knew 100 percent that I was coming back to try and win again. And so I was, from six weeks with Albie, I'd have my mum around to look after him, so I could do a gym session. And so the process for that was just very different.

“The biggest issue was that the qualification ends at the end of April, and so it was getting nearer and nearer, and it was coming quicker and quicker. And I was just thinking, I'm not at the same level I was at six months after giving birth to Albie. And so I could see that the numbers weren't the same, and it was becoming a bigger mountain to climb.

She continued: “When Monty came, he was obviously born in July, and I was already thinking ‘Well, that's the Games gone’ because there's no way you’re getting back almost exactly a year after giving birth. Lots of people would say, ‘You came back six months after Albie.’ Yeah, half-baked. I wasn't at my best until the Olympics.”

And regarding what comes next, Laura told Chris: “There'll be something. I don't want to see it as if ‘she's disappearing off the face of the earth.’ Because yesterday, people were like, ‘We’ll miss you.’ And I'm like, ‘I'm not dying!’” 

For further updates from Laura follow @laurakenny31 on Instagram.

For more great interviews listen to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with webuyanycar weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.