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Leisure Management - Laura Kenny

People profile

Laura Kenny

Olympic cycling champion

Kenny is Great Britain’s most successful female Olympic competitor of all time © John Walton/PA Wire/PA Images
Laura Kenny is a four time Olympic Gold Medallist in cycling © Doug Peters/Doug Peters/EMPICS Entertainment
Kenny (far left) in the Women’s Team Pursuit final at the 2018 European Championships © John Walton/PA Wire/PA Images

How did you first get into cycling?
I’d always been sporty. I’d always been into all the team sports and I really enjoyed it. But it was actually my parents that got me into cycling. My mum chose cycling as a way of losing weight when I was eight years old, and that was it, really. My sister and I really enjoyed it, so we just carried on doing it.

From there, what was the journey to the top of the sport like?
I just did it because I enjoyed it – it was fun. And then, I guess it’s a bit like football, in that you get scouted. I did a test when I was about 13 to get onto a programme called Talent Team, which was my first stepping stone to the Great Britain team.

They have different academies for different ages and then once you’re 18 you can get onto the GB programme. I basically just went through the system, literally from the bottom to the top, through British Cycling.

Obviously, cycling isn’t easy, but in terms of moving through the system, I didn’t really have any hiccups. I had it quite smooth onto the senior programme, and then my Olympic day came around so much faster than I thought it was going to.

How important is sport to you, personally, on a day-to-day level?
It’s always been important. I always loved having an active life. That’s what I want for my son, Albie, when he’s growing up. I think it’s a really healthy way of living. It’s not even the fact that I do it because I love it – because I obviously do love cycling – but I also do it because it makes me feel good about myself.

How have you found getting back into training after having a baby?
I always thought, as a female athlete, that I wanted a baby and why should I let it end my career? So I always planned that I would have one during my career.

I’m not going to lie, it’s certainly tough. In the beginning, it was hard because you’re thrown in the deep end. I had no idea how my body would react. And my body is completely different to what it was before, but I’m adapting to it, and I’m feeling more and more like myself every day.

It may be that I end up getting back to what I was before, but if I don’t, then that’s just life isn’t it? I can cope with that.

Do you think big sporting events can inspire people to become more active?
Yeah, definitely. I think these events provide a huge boost. Because seeing it gives people encouragement and they think, “Oh, I can do that”. The more we can get sport on telly, especially women’s sport, the better. Because I do think female sporting role models can be incredibly powerful.

You recently spoke at Active Uprising. What are your recommendations for getting more people active?
Personally, as a cyclist, I would say we need more clubs, because getting people into the clubs is a massive thing. That’s how I started, I just joined a club with my family. You get all the advice and coaching and join a community. And I think that’s really important, to get that encouragement.

But I think school also has an important part to play. I think it’s too easy to say, ‘Oh well, there’s only an hour in the curriculum that they have to do a week’. I think children need more than that. Not even sport, but activity – outdoor activity. I do feel that it’s really important to have an outdoor lifestyle.

What do you think sports clubs can do to attract total beginners?
Beginners’ programmes are obviously great. I remember at some of the clubs I went to you had to be a certain standard, it wasn’t open to everyone. So I think if more clubs could have different groups to suit different abilities, that would be perfect. Then beginners can move through and learn from everybody.

I think that’s important, because you don’t want to be thrown in the deep end, people want to feel like they’re part of something. They want to feel like they have a place there.

Originally published in Sports Management 2018 issue 4
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