Dame Laura Kenny slams ‘savage’ former team-mates and alleges dirty tricks during Team GB selection

Dame Laura Kenny hits out at 'savage' Team GB cyclists and alleges dirty tricks among teammates
Dame Laura Kenny competed at the Olympics for the first time in 2012, and has said her qualification for the Team GB squad was not without issues - Getty Images/Justin Setterfield

Dame Laura Kenny has recalled a culture of “savage abuse” between team-mates when she first broke into British Cycling’s elite pathway, claiming she once refused to compete until she got an apology.

Britain’s most successful female Olympian, with five gold medals and a silver from three Games, retired earlier this year, removing herself from the selection race for Paris after battling to get fit following the birth of her second son, Monty, last summer.

The 32-year-old was always very complimentary about the way she was supported by British Cycling as a mother, and about the culture within Manchester towards the end of her career. But she told the High Performance Podcast that it was not always that way.

Kenny recalled that in the build-up to London 2012 her team-mates would “shout rude names” towards her and use dirty tricks to “screw” over other team-mates who were all competing for Team GB places.

The Harlow-born rider said she took the issue to British Cycling’s psychiatrist Steve Peters and refused to return to the track until she received an apology from her colleagues.

“I didn’t agree with the language that was being used … it started to get a little bit abusive really,” Kenny said. “There were times I felt I had to step in because the language that was being used wasn’t in a team that I wanted to be part of.

“I didn’t agree with that and so I remember just coming off the track and being like ‘no, we are not talking like that, we’re a team going for gold medals, we are not talking like that’.

“I’m sorry [but] I’m not having swearing – and I swear quite a lot – but when it comes to a bike race, I’m not having people getting shouted rude names. It’s not happening.

“And Steve got brought down and I just remember sitting there and being like ‘I’m not going back on the track until I get an apology, I’m not being spoken to like that’. I’m talking pre-2012, I’m 20, [and] we did eventually apologise to each other.”

Kenny eventually won the team pursuit in London with Joanna Rowsell-Shand and Dani Rowe, both of whom were firm friends, with Rowe a bridesmaid at her wedding and vice-versa. But she admitted things could get fairly ‘“intense” between her and some of her fellow athletes, especially when it came to the time of Team GB selection.

She said: “You have lots of communication within the team pursuit and some of the ways that people are communicating at the time was savage.

“It was getting intense because people were wanting to be selected for the bike races, right? So there were a couple of times where people would be doing things to, like, screw someone else over.”

Kenny announced her retirement from the sport earlier this year, telling Telegraph Sport the decision was a “relief” after months of vacillating.