Great Britain performance director Stephen Park has backed Dame Laura Kenny to achieve more Olympic success after the five-time gold medallist this week revealed she had considered quitting the sport.
Kenny won scratch race gold for England at the Commonwealth Games on Monday, and then admitted she had wondered if it might be her final race after a terrible period for her personally.
The 30-year-old had planned a second child with husband Jason but suffered a miscarriage in November and then had one of her fallopian tubes removed in January due to an ectopic pregnancy.
Kenny has spoken to Park about possibly taking some time out, and it seems likely she will miss next week’s European Championships, which would in turn put an appearance at October’s World Championships in doubt.
But with the Olympic qualifying period starting next year, there would still be plenty of time for Kenny to return.
“I think Laura and a lot of her teammates and support staff have found the last two years really hard,” Park said. “That whole, ‘Is the Olympics on? Is the Olympics not on?’ It takes a huge toll, you’ve worked yourself up for four years.
“Laura’s own ambitions for her own family – these things are well documented. That all plays heavily. Now we’re straight into the qualification process for Paris. It’s quite tiring and relentless, and has felt like that for a lot of the riders and a lot of the staff.
“When you have that success, particularly when you’re a multiple medallist from multiple Games, you’re looking at, can you go one more? Can you keep going? Personally I think she can keep going.
“She’s clearly a fantastic champion but there’s absolutely no doubt you’ve got to make sure you’re fresh in body and mind and you’re ready to go.”
The Covid-disrupted Olympic cycle has impacted several riders, with sprinter Jack Carlin speaking about his own struggles this week.
“One of the things we have to learn about and develop is how we continue to deal with experienced multi-medallists who know well how to get themselves up for the right performance,” Park said.
“We need to work in partnership with them and their support teams to get the very best out of them.
“Equally we need to make sure the programme as a whole keeps creating talent, keeps creating that upward pressure because there will come a time for everyone when they choose to retire.
“It will be fantastic if Laura continues her run of Olympic medals. If she decides for all the major reasons that are in play that’s not what she wants to do I’m very confident there are plenty of young women who’ll step up and take up that mantle.”
Kenny won England’s only track cycling gold as Australia and New Zealand dominated the top step of the podium. However, collectively, the home nations had 24 medals to 13 each for Australia and New Zealand.
The lack of gold can be partly explained by the home nations’ focus being on the Euros and the Worlds, while Australia and New Zealand make a bigger priority of this event.
Riders across the Great Britain squad have also been adjusting to new coaches. With Monica Greenwood due to step down as women’s endurance coach, all four departments of the team will have had new coaches since Tokyo.
Sir Jason Kenny is among the new faces in charge, but Park admitted there will be a period of adjustment.
“Clearly they don’t have the years of coaching knowledge and coaching experience that some of our outgoing coaches have,” he said.
“We’ve got to support them as we go through that programme, but I think the spirit and the mood in the camp was fantastic.”
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