Laura Kenny says she has been getting advice from Jessica Ennis-Hill on returning to elite level sport following childbirth, having been introduced to the former heptathlete via a mutual friend last year.
Now she says she is hoping to use that advice to win world championship gold even earlier into motherhood than her mentor managed.
Ennis-Hill claimed world heptathlon gold in Beijing in 2015 just nine months after returning to training following the birth of son Reggie.
Kenny, 25, and husband Jason, 29 – who between them have 10 Olympic gold medals – have both been named in the British squad for next week’s Track Cycling World Championships in Apeldoorn, Holland.
Laura Kenny’s selection was particularly surprising since she gave birth to son Albie less than six months ago and has managed just six team pursuit sessions since returning to training.
However, after travelling up to Sheffield to see Ennis-Hill while pregnant, and having remained in touch with the London 2012 gold medallist ever since, Kenny says she hopes to use Ennis-Hill’s advice to add to her haul of seven world titles.
“Definitely,” said Kenny, who is hoping to be part of the Great Britain women’s pursuit quartet. “But we [she and husband Jason] have actually got to make our [respective] teams first. Just because we’ve been selected to go doesn’t actually mean we’re going to get a ride. For me there’s six [endurance] girls going and only four will ride. So I’ve still got to make the team.”
Kenny said she had only previously met Ennis-Hill at a few appearances for sponsors Adidas prior to being personally introduced by Esme Matthew, co-head of physiology at the English Institute of Sport. But she admitted she had been inspired by her.
“Obviously it’s been in the news about Serena [Williams] and her comeback [after giving birth],” Kenny said, “but Jessica Ennis has… I wouldn’t say mentored me through it, but she’s been there on the other end of the phone for me to speak with and that’s been great, to have that kind of support.
“Because my body has gone through something it has never gone through before and you don’t really know how you’re going to feel until you go through it. Obviously to have Jess there having done it and having been quite open with questions I can ask her has been really helpful.
Asked what sort of wisdom Ennis-Hill had dispensed, Kenny replied: “Just to take it slowly I guess. The key thing was just forgetting about how I felt before and not rushing straight back to those numbers.
“Obviously we ride with a Garmin and everything we do is recorded. I could see my power on a daily basis. It’s just about forgetting about that because I was chasing numbers from pre-Rio [Olympics] and I’m not even there now. I couldn’t expect to be there straightaway.
“So it was good for her to be like: ‘You’ll get these feelings and it’s hard initially but once you settle into it it comes back quick.’”
Kenny – who will travel with the baby to Holland, staying in a separate apartment from the rest of the Great Britain team along with husband Jason and their parents – did not deny that she was a competitive animal and the thought of making a winning return even sooner than Ennis-Hill or Paula Radcliffe, who won the New York marathon nine months after giving birth, was a motivating factor. “Well it would be nice,” she laughed. “But you don’t know what other teams are doing. It’s so competitive now, it’s not like it used to be. The women’s TP [team pursuit] is at such a high standard now it will take a lot to win that bike race.”