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Record-breaking Olympian Dame Laura Kenny has revealed she considered walking away from cycling after suffering an ectopic pregnancy earlier this year.
Kenny revealed in April that she had suffered a miscarriage at nine weeks in November. In January, the 30-year-old contracted coronavirus and was taken to hospital where it was discovered she was having an ectopic pregnancy – when a fertilised egg implants itself outside the womb.
The five-time Olympic champion returned to racing in April with a team pursuit silver at the Nations Cup in Glasgow, and will be back on track in London – scene of her first Olympic successes
in 2012 – this weekend when the Commonwealth Games get under way.
But Kenny said there was a point at the start of the year where, but for the support of her husband and fellow Olympian Jason and their son Albie, she could have ended a career that has yielded six Olympic medals.
“I felt like nothing was going our way at all,” Kenny said. “January was a tipping point, I was at breaking point. Without Jason, I think I’d have just canned everything, just gone, ‘You know what, I can’t even cope with doing any of this (cycling)’.
“But I grabbed for my safety blanket and decided I needed to ride my bike again. For me, that’s what I’ve done for the last 13 years. It feels like a safe place, the obvious thing for me to do when I felt that broken was to go out and ride my bike again.
“It just started to come back again and once I started, I got back into the rhythm of things.
“It put lots of things into perspective. It really did make me think, ‘Why am I doing this?’ It’s because I enjoy it, that’s why, and it made me realise that more than ever.”
Kenny will race for England in the team pursuit, scratch and points race at the Commonwealth Games, which wrap up just days before the start of the European Championships in Munich.
With the World Championships to follow in October and Olympic qualifying getting under way, it is a daunting schedule, but after all she has been through in recent months, Kenny is riding with a different perspective.
“I don’t really know what I’ll be expecting going into these Games because it’s a funny schedule where we have the Commonwealths, then a five-day gap, and then we go straight into the European championships,” the 30-year-old said.
“You can’t taper and peak in training when two competitions are so close together, and in the last month I’ve literally done just three sessions on the track.
“Before that would have worried me and I would have been sat here panicking, and maybe it’s a bit blase for me to sit here and say I’m just looking forward to riding my bike again, but I feel like I’ve got low expectations.
“People on the outside are going to expect me to cross the finish line first, but I’m in a really relaxed place right now.”
For all her Olympic, world and European titles, Kenny has ‘only’ one Commonwealth medal to her name – the points race gold she took in Glasgow eight years ago.
But though the Games rank low in terms of Olympic qualifying points, Kenny believes they are one of the few multi-sport events where track cycling reaches a broader audience and connects with the public at large.
Asked what a medal in London would mean to her, she said: “Every bike race where you cross the line first gives you a different type of joy, and to win a gold medal in the coming week would rank highly.
“You’re only as good as your last race, and the Olympics seems a long time ago, so I would obviously love to cross the line first.”