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British cyclist Laura Kenny at the Lee Valley Velo Park in east London, on March 12, 2014. Image Credit: AFP

London: Britain’s Laura Kenny, the most successful female cyclist in Olympic history, announced on Monday it was time to “hang that bike up”, giving up on her dream of competing at the Paris Games.

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The five-time Olympic track gold medallist, who gave birth to a second child in July, had been targeting a fourth Olympic Games later this year.

“I always knew deep down I would know when the right time was,” the 31-year-old told the BBC. “I have had an absolute blast but now is the time for me to hang that bike up.”

Kenny, who is married to Britain’s most successful Olympic cyclist, Jason Kenny, won gold medals at the London 2012 Games in omnium and team pursuit, defending her titles in Rio de Janeiro.

In 2021, at the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics, she became the first winner of the women’s madison, with Katie Archibald, and also won a silver medal in the team pursuit.

Struggling to balance life

Kenny, who is a seven-time world champion and 14-time European champion, said she was struggling to balance family and sporting commitments.

“It’s been in my head a little while,” she said. “The sacrifices of leaving the children and your family at home is really quite big and it really is a big decision to make.

“More and more, I was struggling to do that. More people asking me what races was I doing, what training camps was I going on — I didn’t want to go ultimately and that’s what it came down to.

“I knew the minute I was getting those feelings. Once I said to Jase, ‘I don’t think I want to ride a bike anymore’, I started to feel relief.”

Kenny gave birth to her first son, Albie, in 2017, after which she returned successfully to the sport.

After a miscarriage late in 2021 and an ectopic pregnancy soon afterwards she had a second son, Monty, in 2023.

Earlier this month, British Cycling performance director Stephen Park said Kenny had only a “slim chance” of competing in Paris.

“Going on to win another gold medal, as much as I would love to do that, it wasn’t giving me the energy I wanted anymore, it just wasn’t,” Kenny said.

“I wasn’t thinking, ‘I really want to go on and win one’. I was thinking, ‘I really want to stay at home with the children’.”

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Gold medallist Laura Trott poses with her medal on the podium after the Women's Omnium track cycling event at the Velodrome during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 16, 2016. Image Credit: AFP

2012 highlight

Kenny said the “absolute highlight” of her career was the 2012 Games in London, during which her relationship with Jason became public.

“I never thought I would go to a home games, let alone go on to win two gold medals,” she said.

“When I look back, I’m like ‘Wow, those two weeks did really change my life’.”

Kenny, whose surname was Trott before her marriage to Jason Kenny, hopes to be at the Paris Olympics, starting in late July, “in some capacity” and wants to stay involved with the British cycling team.

Park paid a warm tribute to Kenny on Monday.

“Laura hangs up her wheels as not just one of the sport’s greatest riders, but as one of the greatest sporting talents our country has ever produced,” he said.

“Just as impressive, however, is the impact which Laura has had on her fellow riders on the GB cycling team and the next generation of Olympic hopefuls. She has been a beacon of inspiration.”