Dame Laura Kenny: The Springsteen fan who became one of cycling’s rock stars

Dame Laura Kenny has always been able to light up any room she steps into, and never more than when she is in a velodrome.

Bright and bubbly, she became the face of British Cycling’s more than decade-long dominance on the track from the moment Kenny, then Trott, announced her talent to the wider world at London 2012.

The two Olympic gold medals she won barely 20 miles from her childhood home in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, were the first of five that made her Britain’s most successful female Olympian, and the most successful female Olympic cyclist on the planet.

But on Monday she announced it will be five and out, calling time on her decorated career at the age of 31, ending outside chances she may ride at the Paris Games.

Already in a hurry, Laura Trott was born a month prematurely with a collapsed lung. Diagnosed with asthma, she was advised to take up sport to regulate her breathing.

She started trampolining but switched to cycling after mum Glenda began riding to lose weight. Laura and her sister Emma went along – and both made careers out of it, Emma as a road rider and coach, and Laura as one of the greatest track stars the sport has ever seen.

She started winning races at her local track, Welwyn, aged eight, and got hooked on success. A world junior omnium title earned her a place on Britain’s senior roster and aged only 18 she was part of the team pursuit squad that won European gold.

Having set herself a goal of making the Rio Games in 2016, Kenny was on her way to the London Olympics.

There was an inevitability to winning team pursuit gold – the world record was broken all six times Trott teamed up with Joanna Rowsell and Dani King (nee Rowe). Two days later, Kenny came from behind to claim omnium gold as well.

That made her Britain’s second double champion of the Games after Jason Kenny. A day later the pair were seen kissing as they sat behind David Beckham at the beach volleyball. Cycling had its new golden couple.

Dame Laura and husband Sir Jason Kenny became the sport's golden couple
Dame Laura and husband Sir Jason Kenny became the sport’s golden couple (Adam Davy/PA)

After they replicated their London success in Rio – Laura winning two golds and Jason three – they got married close to home in Cheshire.

They say opposites attract, and if Jason is a self-professed “miserable sod”, Laura is the charismatic marketer’s dream with the success to match. “It was just like yin and yang,” Laura said.

Thoughts like this tumble out of Kenny every time she sits down for an interview. She might want to talk about her love of Bruce Springsteen’s music, or how she once saw her grandmother’s ghost, or how she and Jason ended up adopting a family of ducks that came into their garden.

But she is just as open about the challenges she has faced, and recent years have been an emotional rollercoaster.

A year after Rio, Laura gave birth to son Albie. While Jason quietly retired – a decision he reversed before even announcing it – Laura was clear she intended to return in time for Tokyo.

She did so, but perhaps needed the Covid-enforced postponement of the Games to recover from a string of injuries suffered in early 2020. In Tokyo, Britain’s dominance in the velodrome came under increasing threat, and they settled for silver in the team pursuit.

Kenny’s fifth gold came alongside Katie Archibald in the first ever women’s Madison at an Olympics, but she lost her omnium crown after a heavy crash in the scratch race.

That disappointment was nothing compared to the trauma that was to come. In November, Kenny suffered a miscarriage. Then in January she had an ectopic pregnancy and lost a fallopian tube during emergency surgery.

Dame Laura Kenny (centre) with her 2022 Commonwealth gold
Dame Laura Kenny (centre) with her 2022 Commonwealth gold (John Walton/PA)

She did not reveal either until she had just won team pursuit silver at the Nations Cup in Glasgow, but in characteristic fashion she spoke openly of the impact – how she questioned her future in the sport but used cycling as a her safety blanket.

She surprised herself with Commonwealth Gold in the summer of 2022 before the healthy arrival of a second son, Monty, in 2023 gave Kenny the sign she needed to know it was time to retire.