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Laura Kenny roars back after 'confidence crisis' and 'lost spark'

LONDON ENGLAND AUGUST 01 Laura Kenny of Team England celebrates with their flag after winning Gold in the Womens 10km Scratch Race on day four of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at Lee Valley Velopark Velodrome on August 01 2022 on the London England Photo by Justin SetterfieldGetty Images
Laura Kenny celebrates her victory in the Commonwealth Games scratch race (Image credit: Getty Images)

Laura Kenny's victory in the Commonwealth Games scratch race might have had a familiar feeling – a 34th gold medal at a major international event sealed with the exhilarating combination of speed and acuity that has characterised her career. But this one was different.

An emotional Kenny revealed after the podium ceremony that she'd "lost the spark" this year, finding it difficult to find motivation to train. On top of that, she said she'd suffered a "confidence crisis" just the previous day, placing a lowly 13th in the points race. 

After becoming the most successful female cyclist in Olympic history at the Tokyo Games last year, as well as Britain's most successful female Olympian of any sport, Kenny has had a tough time of late. She suffered a miscarriage in November and then in January suffered an ectopic pregnancy, forcing her to have a fallopian tube removed.  

Kenny revealed that she had seriously contemplated retirement on several occasions. 

"I can’t believe it. Honestly, last night I said to Jason [Kenny - husband], 'I think this is going to be my last race'," she told the BBC after winning the scratch race. 

"I watched [swimmer] Adam Peaty and I completely reflected on his interview and I thought: 'That's me, that is me all over, I've lost the spark, training doesn't come that easy. Every day I'm like, 'Ah, here we go again.' I've been through three Olympic cycles now. To keep picking yourself up after this whole year has just, honestly, been a nightmare. I have absolutely just lost motivation."

On top of that, Kenny hadn't had the best start to the Commonwealth Games, an event she didn't think she'd be riding given the planned arrival of her second child. She herself said she was "going terribly" last week, describing herself as "the weak link" in the bronze medal-winning team pursuit quartet before finishing Sunday's points race down in 13th. 

She revealed that had something to do with her confidence taking another hit after witnessing the horrific crash that saw Matt Walls fly up the banking and into the stands on Sunday. 

"I just wasn't in the right frame of mind. You see [Matt] Wallsy crash like that, and it really makes you think: 'What am I doing?' I have been so lucky my whole career. I have had one broken shoulder and one broken arm - it's really not been that bad. But you see something like that...

"I messaged Monica [Greenwood, British Cycling coach] straight away and I was like: 'I'm having a serious confidence crisis.' I just didn't want to be on the track. And whenever I feel like that, I race badly. And that's what happened yesterday. I raced badly, then I don't get a result."

Kenny, however, turned things around dramatically on Monday. She was quite happy to give her younger teammate Grace Lister a crack in the scratch race, but she ended up in the perfect position, with Sophie Lewis swooping in to help reel in a late attack from Scotland's Neah Evans before Kenny came surging through on the final lap to take gold. 

"I just felt like a completely different bike rider," Kenny said. 

"I was so fired up. I kept saying to myself in the toilet, 'I can do this'. Last night I was messaging my new coach and I was like, 'No! I'm not giving up on this. I have one more roll of the dice. Please, just help me.' And honestly, it could not have been better set up if I tried." 

In a subsequent statement from British Cycling, she added: "I told myself in the toilet, 'you need to race as Laura Trott, that old bike rider who didn't think about anything else other than crossing that finish line first'. 

"When I changed my mindset, I just felt completely different."

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Patrick Fletcher
Patrick Fletcher

Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.