I was on brink of quitting, admits Laura Kenny after scratch race gold at Commonwealth Games

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Laura Kenny overcomes ‘crisis in confidence’ before winning Commonwealth Games gold - GETTY IMAGES

Laura Kenny overcomes ‘crisis in confidence’ before winning Commonwealth Games gold – GETTY IMAGES

Laura Kenny delivered a brilliant victory in the scratch race before giving an even more extraordinary post-race performance, revealing she had come close to quitting the sport on Monday as the pressure of trying to deliver for her country for over a decade had left her feeling “lost” and “lacking in motivation”.

In a brutally honest series of interviews, Kenny said the past two years – the delayed Tokyo Olympics, various injury struggles including a broken shoulder and concussion, a miscarriage last November followed by an ectopic pregnancy in January – had all come to a head on Sunday night when she suffered a full-blown “crisis in confidence”.

Britain’s most successful female Olympian said she had been unnerved by the heavy crash in which team-mate Matt Walls was taken to hospital along with two other riders after flying over the barriers into the crowd during qualifying for the men’s scratch race.

That crash was on her mind as she finished 13th in the points race on Sunday. Kenny then went back to her apartment and watched swimmer Adam Peaty – another serial winner for Team GB – finish a shock fourth in the 100 metres breaststroke final, his first defeat over that distance since 2014.

Afterwards, Peaty confessed to having “lost his spark” and of suffering from “burnout”. His words resonated with Kenny.

“He said he hadn’t really felt the spark in training and competition for the past two years, and that feels very much like me,” Kenny said. “I have been up and down, up and down, for months now.”

Laura Kenny - Laura Kenny overcomes ‘crisis in confidence’ before winning Commonwealth Games gold - GETTY IMAGESLaura Kenny - Laura Kenny overcomes ‘crisis in confidence’ before winning Commonwealth Games gold - GETTY IMAGES

Laura Kenny – Laura Kenny overcomes ‘crisis in confidence’ before winning Commonwealth Games gold – GETTY IMAGES

Kenny’s admission that she was struggling hugely with her mental health was even more shocking because it was only on Friday, after helping England to bronze in the team pursuit, that she had said she loved cycling “more than ever” and felt rejuvenated by riding with her younger team-mates. She admitted her emotions were swinging wildly at the moment.

“Honestly, I can’t even tell you how I felt last night,” Kenny said. “I just lay there with my mum and I thought, ‘I don’t know what to do.’

“I said to Jase [husband Jason Kenny], ‘This is going to be my last race’. It’s just so hard. It is hard enough coming in, Olympics after Olympics, and getting yourself ready, without the whole rubbish stuff of your personal life.

“When you then go through all that personally, and then you come here – and everyone wanted to see me cross the line first. It is a lot of pressure to be put back under after that. In a way, I’m more proud of that [gold] than many of the other Olympic medals that I’ve won.”

Laura Kenny - ‘I said this is going to be my last race’: Laura Kenny bounces back from brink to win scratch race gold - GETTY IMAGESLaura Kenny - ‘I said this is going to be my last race’: Laura Kenny bounces back from brink to win scratch race gold - GETTY IMAGES

Laura Kenny – ‘I said this is going to be my last race’: Laura Kenny bounces back from brink to win scratch race gold – GETTY IMAGES

Kenny said the departure of women’s endurance coach Monica Greenwood and the decision of British team-mate Katie Archibald to skip the Commonwealths and the European Championships had also affected her.

“Since everything that’s happened to me personally, and then Monica’s stepped away…I’ve felt lost,” she said. “When Katie said to me she doesn’t think she can do the Commies and then the Euros, I felt like somebody had ripped my right arm off. I thought Katie and I were focusing on the Madison at the worlds [later this year], maybe we still will. But when someone says, ‘I can’t physically get fit enough to do the Europeans, I don’t think I’ll be doing the Madison with you,’ I just felt like I had nothing.

“When you’re in that mindset and you’re stepping on to the bike, day in, day out, I’m making sacrifices at home because obviously I’m leaving [four-year-old son] Albie to do it, it’s really hard. Even before the start [today], I didn’t know if I could do it. But I came in this morning in a completely different mindset, thinking, ‘Of course you can do it.’

“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’.”

She certainly looked like the old Trott as she surged to the front on the final lap at the venue where she made her name 10 years ago, chasing down British team-mate Neah Evans, of Scotland. Team-mate Ollie Wood later took bronze in the men’s points race.

Kenny said she might now step away from this month’s European Championships in an effort to get her head straight for the World Championships this autumn.

“The way British Cycling have treated Katie, allowing her to step back for a bit has been brilliant,” she said. “I think I’m in safe hands no matter my decision.”