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Laura Kenny has never lost a race at the Olympic Games.
The 29-year-old British rider, who has ridden at two Olympic Games in London and Rio, has the rare record of winning every single cycling event she’s contested on the track.
She heads into the Tokyo track program next week with three medal opportunities and a chance at becoming Britain’s top gold winner, surpassing other cyclists Chris Hoy and her husband Jason Kenny. If she wins just one of her events, she would also surpass Dutch legend Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel as the most successful female cyclist in Olympics history.
“I don’t know, I don’t really think about it. Like, I went into those races hoping to medal and that’s exactly what I’m going to do in Tokyo. I’m going into the races, hoping to medal,” Kenny [née Trott] told the media in a video call before traveling out to Tokyo. “The natural step, I guess for me, was to put my hand up for all three events, because obviously, I hadn’t done it before. And it’s the same going into the extra event. I would hope to come away with a medal.”
In Tokyo, Kenny will be one of the busiest track riders around as she aims to defend her titles in the team pursuit and the omnium, as well as teaming up with Katie Archibald in the debut women’s Madison.
She nearly didn’t make it to Tokyo after she considered retirement following two serious crashes in the velodrome. Kenny came down hard during the tempo race — one of the omnium events — at the Milton World Cup in February 2020 and broke her shoulder.
Despite the injury, she opted to contest the world championships in Berlin a month later and had another crash, this time in the scratch race. She broke her arm in the fall, but the injury went undiagnosed until she returned home and left her in a lot of pain.
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The postponement of the Olympic Games was a bit of a blessing in disguise for Kenny as she had more time to recover from the series of injuries.
“If this had been a year ago, I’d have been slightly concerned. Maybe not concerned but I just wouldn’t have had the prep that I would have wanted to have,” said Kenny. “So having the extra year really gave me time to make sure I was doing everything right, get my shoulder better, and get fitter and stronger than I ever have been.”
New ideas and new records
Kenny has been part of the British Cycling setup for more than a decade and is an integral part of the team pursuit squad that has dominated during that time. She helped lead the team in Rio five years ago when the British beat the USA by over a second in the final and set a new world record.
The team pursuit has been the bread and butter of the men’s and women’s endurance programs in recent years. Given that it is a race against the clock, with very few external factors, it is the discipline that the team has honed and worked on most down the years.
Bunch events have been largely left to see how they work out on the day, but with a new coach in Monica Greenwood — who was appointed last December — and the changes to the omnium event to include only bunch races, a greater emphasis has been made on them in training.
“I don’t know if it was a change in the coaching staff that brought a different thought process into it. The team pursuit is the most predictable and it is the one that we come in daily to do. We train day in day out and we do team pursuit first and foremost,” Kenny explained. “I didn’t see why we’re just leaving two medals behind. Like, why are we not trying to be the best in those events, too?
“This has been the most I’ve ever done in terms of preparation for bunch races. We’ve done so much Madison the last six to eight months and, honestly, some of the ideas that Monica has brought to us have been great. It’s just been like crazy considering Monica was our junior coach before, she wasn’t even under 23. The ideas that she brought in have just been fantastic.”
While fans will watch with intrigue at the Madison and the omnium, the biggest interest is still likely to be on the team pursuit event. The competition in the four-rider event has continued to get tougher with each Olympic cycle with Great Britain, the United States, and Australia duking it out on the boards for top honors.
Fast times are expected in the Izu Velodrome and Kenny believes there will be several world records set in the team pursuit over the course of the competition.
“It’s got to go, it definitely will go,” Kenny said of the world record. “You always hear rumors about people doing fast times. There are rumors that the Australians have already broken it in training. So yeah, I think it’s definitely going to go, and I think it’s going tumble, and I think there’ll be more than one team that it’s going to be broken by.”
The track program begins on Monday, August 2, and runs until Sunday, August 8.