EXCLUSIVE - Jason Kenny reveals how fatherhood helped him put things in perspective

The six-time Olympic champion talks about preparations for Tokyo 2020 and what he learnt from Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins. 

On this day three years ago, Jason Kenny won the keirin event and clinched his third gold medal in Rio.

With six Olympic titles, he joined Chris Hoy as the most successful British Olympian.

After marrying four-time Olympic champion Laura Trott, Kenny took a break in 2017 and became a father to son Albert.

He returned to competition the following year and is now ready to write more history at Tokyo 2020.

Olympic Channel met the 31-year-old from Bolton at the end of the European Games in Minsk.

While Kenny failed to shine in the individual events, finishing seventh in the keirin and eliminated in the early stages of the sprint, he still managed to come away with bronze in the men's team sprint alongside Jack Carlin and Ryan Owens.

With a year to go to what will be his fourth Olympic Games, the track cycling star talked about his new life as a parent, and how his competitive flame still burns.

Jason Kenny (R) was eliminated by team-mate Jack Carlin in the men's sprint in Minsk
Jason Kenny (R) was eliminated by team-mate Jack Carlin in the men's sprint in MinskJason Kenny (R) was eliminated by team-mate Jack Carlin in the men's sprint in Minsk

Olympic Channel: The European Games was your last test of the season. How is your preparation for Tokyo 2020 going?

Jason Kenny: The preparation is going OK. We are not where we want to be yet, but we've still got a good year to get some work in. So I think we are OK where we are.

The European Games were good for us in terms of UCI points, which helped us qualify for the World Cup and the World Championships, which then qualify us for the Olympics.

It was an important step on the way to Tokyo. I think it was good to live the village atmosphere and just to get that experience of a multi-sport kind of Games ahead of the Olympics and make sure you are up to speed with everything you might need in that environment.

It was definitely important for us for qualifying points, but it was also quite an useful event and it was good to come and see where we stand against the rest of Europe, which is quite competitive in our particular sport. A lot of world champions are based in Europe.

OC: How's your mindset changed compared to previous Olympics?

JK: This is another Olympic cycle. It depends where you are in your life and in your career, so the lead-up to this one is very different obviously... I've got a young child at home so that changes our home dynamic quite a lot. And then, having done it for quite a while, it's the experience, like the Olympic experience.

Everyone has his own challenges, the young riders trying to get into the team, all the established riders trying to hold them off...(laughs)

OC: You've been married to fellow Olympic champ Laura for almost three years now and have two-year old Albert. Does having a new family help you in terms of life balance and relieving some of the pressure of being a sportsperson?

JK: Becoming a dad changed me a little bit, it puts a bit of perspective on things... You enjoy the atmosphere, you don't care as much as before.

"Obviously you want to win, I'm very competitive naturally, but it helps you keep perspective." - Jason Kenny on being a husband and father

When I was 18-19, trying to burst into the team is your whole world. As I am a bit older now and with the little one I can see there's a world outside of sport... I think it helps keep going and keep working hard, then hopefully the results will come.

OC: When you know you have a gruelling training session in front of you, what's your main motivation when you wake up?

JK: I don't know to be honest! (laughs) I just like doing it. Motivation is not something I have to really think about, I just go training and enjoy training, I enjoy working hard.

I also like being off from time to time. You always wish you had a bit more time. When you've got two months off you wish you had 18 months, and when you have a minute you wish you had two before the event.

For me the challenge is trying to optimise every second between now and the race, make sure you are in the best possible place when it comes to it.

Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny during day five of the 2012 UCI Track Cycling World Championships 
Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny during day five of the 2012 UCI Track Cycling World Championships Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny during day five of the 2012 UCI Track Cycling World Championships 

"When it comes to the race I'm just naturally competitive, I just want to compete and win." - Jason Kenny

OC: You need just one gold in Tokyo to overtake Chris Hoy as Britain's most successful Olympian. With two medals you can also surpass Bradley Wiggins as the most decorated Team GB's athlete. How have they been an inspiration for you?

JK: Obviously you benefit from people like Chris and Brad, people like myself, and people in the sport generally that have come after them. They were part of creating British cycling and turning it into what it is.

I was lucky enough to be in the team with them and learnt a lot from them in the way that they carried themselves, the way they looked after themselves around racing... and just their general approach to it. So yeah I feel really lucky to have been in a team with those guys. I think it really helped set me up for what has been a really long career in the sport of my own.

OC: When will we see you next competing?

JK: I'll be back around October, when we will be going towards the European Championships (in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, from 16-20 October). Then we'll move to the World Cup season: that's really important for us to make sure we qualify for the Olympics, but also to build up the team moving forward towards Tokyo.

2019/2020 UCI Track Cycling World Cup calendar:

Minsk (Belarus), 1-3 November 2019

Glasgow (Great Britain), 8-10 November 2019

Hong Kong (China), 29 November-1 December 2019

Cambridge (New Zealand), 6-8 December 2019

Brisbane (Australia), 13-15 December 2019

Milton (Canada), 24-26 January 2020

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