Kenny to join new Olympic mums support network

Cycling
Laura Kenny

Cycling – Six Day Series
Venue: Lee Valley Velo Park, London Dates: 22-27 October
Coverage: Live on the BBC Sport website and BBC iPlayer

A support group for mothers competing at Tokyo 2020 has been set up by the British Athletes’ Commission.

The Mothers in Elite Sport Network will offer support to British athletes, including four-time Olympic champion Laura Kenny, who are balancing the demands of elite sport and motherhood.

Kenny says she has had to “balance her life differently” since the birth of her son Albie in August 2017.

Set up as a private Facebook group, the network will offer help to Olympic and Paralympic athletes with issues such as childcare, returning to training after childbirth and the physical effects of becoming a mother.

“They are putting in place this group where you can speak to other athletes who’ve had a baby,” Kenny said.

“I was looking at it and there are eight who are currently qualified for Tokyo.

“You look at the wider world and I’m amazed at how many there are. It’s inspirational.”

Kenny, 27, won her first medals since becoming a mother when she took gold in the team pursuit and elimination events at the European Championships in Glasgow in August 2018.

“I always wanted to have a baby in the middle of my career,” she said. “I wanted to be a young mum and so I was willing to hang up my wheels for a year.

“I wanted to treat my career like any other mother. I’ve shown you can do it but there are so many role models now.”

She says that she takes inspiration from Allyson Felix from the United States and Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, two mothers who both won gold medals at the recent World Athletics Championships in Doha.

Felix was part of the USA’s winning 4x400m relay team 10 months and one day after giving birth to daughter Camryn, while Fraser-Pryce took the 100m world title two years after her son Zyon was born.

“Allyson Felix is absolutely incredible,” Kenny said. “I know just how hard it is to come back so to do that after eight to 10 months is incredible.

“Shelly-Ann had hers roughly at the same time as me, so she’s had two years to get back.”

‘First and foremost now, I’m a mum’

Kenny’s four Olympic golds – in the team pursuit and omnium at London 2012, and the same events at Rio 2016 – were won before the birth of her son, and she acknowledges that she is a different person now.

She believes that being a mother has given her a different perspective on cycling, but that her competitive fire has not dimmed.

“I have to balance my life differently,” said the Briton, who is married to six-time Olympic champion Jason Kenny.

“There are no rest days for me as such because on those days I like to look after Albie myself. I’m not just sitting at home with my feet up, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

“It’s not that I don’t care now, but because Albie is my absolute priority, that brings something completely different, which is a benefit.

“I used to get so wound up, stressed and nervous. First and foremost now, I’m a mum.

“Before I was an athlete 24/7, where you always have to think about yourself – what you are eating, what you are doing.

“Being a mum has brought a different reality and it shows that you do not have to be as completely wrapped up in it to be successful.”

‘I can’t explain the feeling of winning’

Jason and Laura Kenny

Kenny’s next event will be the Six Day London later this month. It is part of the Six Day Series, a competition that combines cycling with an atmosphere more akin to a disco.

She will partner up for the event with Elinor Barker, with whom she rode as part of Britain’s team pursuit Olympic champions in Rio. In addition, Kenny will ride at Six Day Manchester in March 2020.

Kenny remains as enthusiastic about the sport as ever. With a full life at home, she says would walk away from her sport in an instant if she ever lost the desire to compete.

“I just love it,” she said. “It never feels like I am doing a job. Because it is so difficult to leave this little person, I would not give that up if I didn’t enjoy it.

“I can’t explain the feeling of winning, it’s overwhelming. But before you can reach that point, you have to love the day-to-day stuff and have that sheer love to just get on a bike.

“I would not carry on if I didn’t enjoy it.

“The Olympics are every four years and it takes so much to get there. But it would not cross my mind to stop tomorrow if I wasn’t enjoying it.”

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