After four Olympic Games, seven gold and two silver medals, Sir Jason Kenny, Britain’s most decorated Olympian, has announced his retirement.
Kenny admitted a certain amount of reluctance as he heads into coaching as Team GB’s sprint coach. For now, at least, he remains the most successful Olympian in his own household as well.
Kenny, who was knighted in the new year honours after his memorable triumph in the keirin in Tokyo last summer saw him claim yet another Olympic title, formally began work as British Cycling’s men’s podium sprint coach this week.
He said the decision had been taken jointly with his wife Dame Laura Kenny, Britain’s most successful female Olympian, who won her fifth gold with victory in the Madison alongside Katie Archibald last summer, and he hopes the new role will allow him more quality time with their son, Albie, who turned four last August. Laura is expected to target Paris 2024 for her fourth Olympics where she will be the same age, 33, that her husband is now.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” said Kenny. “I genuinely wanted to carry on to Paris, but I creak quite a lot these days and I always knew I wanted to go into coaching off the back of it, and this opportunity came along. I am a little bit sad to be honest because all I’ve known is riding and competing, but I’m quite excited to get stuck into the job.”
He added: “Athletes’ days off are not really off – you’re planning for the next day,” he said. “It basically consists of not doing anything too arduous and fuelling right … you can’t just go and play football with Albie or whatever. Now I think I’ll have less time off but I’ll be able to enjoy it more.”
Having previously racked up six gold medals and two silvers from his appearances in Beijing, London and Rio, Kenny stepped away from the sport for a year before deciding to head to his fourth Games.
The 33-year-old had conceded he was “struggling” during the men’s sprint in Tokyo but saved arguably his most thrilling performance in the keirin for what turned out to be the final race of his professional career. The victory meant he surpassed both Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Bradley Wiggins as Britain’s most successful Olympian, with Kenny also becoming most decorated cyclist in Olympic history.
Asked if winning his specialist event in Tokyo was the perfect way to sign off, he said: “It is. I’m dead happy with that. It was really special. To do it on that bike, the last day of the Olympics, for me that’s a really special moment in time. If I could have picked a day to end on, that would be the one.”
Kenny replaces Scott Pollock, who had served as sprint coach in an interim role following the dismissal of Kevin Stewart in November 2020 for “inappropriate relationships” with riders.
Hoy won team sprint gold alongside Kenny at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the Scot said he was looking forward to seeing his former teammate move into his new role. “I was really excited to hear that Jason has been appointed as the men’s sprint coach,” Hoy said. “He was a fantastic teammate, an extraordinary athlete and I’m looking forward to seeing him translate his experiences over four Olympic Games into supporting the next generation of talented British riders to achieve their best.”
The British Cycling performance director, Stephen Park, added: “To win an Olympic medal of any colour is a magnificent achievement, but it’s almost impossible to comprehend the level of talent, dedication and resilience needed to top the podium seven times across four Olympic Games.
“It goes without saying that Jason has made a magnificent contribution to our team, and I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to hold on to all of that knowledge and experience as he embarks on his career as a coach.”