Laura Kenny, nee Trott, is Britain’s most successful British Olympic of all time, yet her feet are firmly rooted on the ground when they are not strapped to the pedals of her bike. Columnist Laura Winter says Kenny’s charm and charisma belie her fierce competitiveness, and champions the double gold medallist from Rio for the BT Sports Action Woman of the Year Award 2016.
The Mixed Zone is publishing a series of articles about each of the 10 athletes nominated for the prestigious annual award before the winner is announced during the Action Woman of the Year Awards Show, presented by Clare Balding, on BT Sport on Monday, December 12.
The winner, from an outstanding year of sporting performances by British female athletes, will be decided by public vote. For details of how you can cast your vote, plus the full list of nominees, CLICK HERE
It was a Tuesday evening. Rio 2016 was in full swing, the Velodrome was rocking. And around 9pm, while 11 million watched back at home, another chapter in British cycling history was written as Laura Kenny – then Trott – became not only our most successful female Olympian of all time but the most successful female track cyclist.
We wondered how the irresistible Kenny could better her achievements of London 2012 where she was a double Olympic champion with golds in the team pursuit and omnium. But in Rio, after British Cycling’s build-up was marred by controversy, the soon-to-be Mrs Kenny proved imperious. The team-pursuit quartet broke the world record in each round of competition, clocking four minutes, 10 seconds before winning gold against the United States. Then, in the omnium, Kenny did not drop out of the top two in any of the six events to win her second title. Shortly afterwards, her then-fiance, Jason Kenny, won his sixth gold medal in the men’s keirin. They became Britain’s golden couple, and girls all over the country turned to their parents and declared: “I want to be the next Laura Trott.”
Fast forward a few weeks, Laura and Jason tied the knot in secret and now the fastest couple in the world on two wheels are on the publicity trail to promote their book.
The 24-year-old is charming and charismatic off the track – always willing to sign an autograph or do an interview, even if she has only just dismounted from her bike. Her giggle is infectious. She is unashamedly a “girly girl”, but does not let her femininity define her. It is simply part of who she is. Sexism will not stand in her way.
On the track? Rarely have we seen such a ferociously competitive and feisty rider. She is what those in the sport call ‘an animal’ on the bike with an unshakable belief in herself and her capabilities. Nothing seems to faze her, though she admits behind the scenes she gets nervous and is “stressed 24/7”.
But Kenny, who returns to the track at the Revolution Series in London on December 2 and 3, is not one to believe the hype. She said: “It seems mad, people saying, ‘You’re going to be a household name’. I’m like, ‘No, I’m still just Laura riding my bike for fun’.
“It’s weird being called ‘the golden couple’. It’s put us into this strange situation where everyone’s saying we’re like idols. For me that just seems so far away from what I thought I could ever achieve. We’re still just Laura and Jason; we still feel like the same people.”
Kenny is a woman who has defied the odds. Born four weeks early with a collapsed lung, she spent the first six weeks of her life in intensive care and later suffered with recurrent chest infections due to asthma. That she became a four-time Olympic champion despite the obstacles life threw at her is testament to her determination, ambition and talent. She first sat on a bike alongside sister Emma when their mother started cycling to lose weight, and she went on to win junior national titles in 2009 and 2010. She made her senior debut at the European Track Championships in 2011 and won her first world title in the team pursuit in the same year.
What she has gone on to achieve defies belief. Her wit, effervescent personality and supreme confidence marks her out as a role model for thousands of young girls who are also riding their bikes “for fun”.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Winter is a sports journalist, presenter and event host. She worked in sports communications for the International Rowing Federation for two years, before working and training as a journalist in Gloucestershire, covering a variety of sports including rugby, boxing, football, and triathlon. She then turned freelance at the end of 2014 and is part of the team who founded Voxwomen, a women’s cycling show that seeks to give the female elite peloton the coverage they deserve. Laura’s latest articles.