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Jason Kenny: 'Attention can be a little bit mental'

Jason Kenny: 'Attention can be a little bit mental'
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Go down the list of Britain's most decorated Olympians and his is the only name in the top seven not preceded by the title 'Sir'.

Jason Kenny could be forgiven for getting frustrated by the lack of recognition that seems to greet his extraordinary achievements on the bike.

Go down the list of Britain's most decorated Olympians and his is the only name in the top seven not preceded by the title 'Sir', despite him sitting joint top alongside Sir Chris Hoy, while his six gold medals have not brought the wealth of endorsements that have gone to others.

It used to grate with Kenny – he spoke out ahead of the Rio Olympics – but four years later as Tokyo 2020 looms on the horizon, he seems much more content with his lot.

Cycling – 2014 UCI Track Cycling World Championships – Day One – Velodromo Alcides Nieto Patino
Jason Kenny (left) is hoping to move clear of Sir Chris Hoy (right) as Britain's most successful Olympian (Luke Webber/PA)

"I've learnt to roll with it now," Kenny said as he prepares for next week's world championships in Berlin – the last major event before the Games.

"It can be frustrating at times, but I've done it for quite a long time now and I just relax and go with it."

A handful of sponsors have come forward, even if Kenny admits with a smile they are more interested in his wife and four-time Olympic champion Laura than him, but the relative anonymity within which Kenny operates has its own advantages.

"I get the train into training a lot and it is quite nice to be able to do that, and just sit there and just be normal for a bit," he said.

It is easy to picture the humble, unassuming Kenny quietly taking his place on a busy Manchester commuter train unnoticed, even if that changes every four years.

— British Cycling (@BritishCycling) February 10, 2020

"It's been quite mad in the year after the Games, when you have just been on TV and everyone recognises your face," he said.

"It can be a little bit mental. After Rio was weird and a bit of a challenge. But once it all settles down, it is OK."

Kenny approached Rio certain it would be his final Olympics, then took a year off in which he had effectively retired.

His decision to return came around the time that Kenny became a father as he and Laura welcomed baby Albie in August 2017.

Albie has unsurprisingly revolutionised his parents' schedules. Even as they travel around the world to competitions and training camps, he is yet to spend a night away from both of them at the same time.

That may change in Tokyo, but Albie will be in Berlin next week, entertained by a "full schedule" of sightseeing with his grandfather while mum and dad race in the velodrome.

Dad's task will be to show that Great Britain can cut the deficit to the Dutch, who have been dominating in the men's sprint for over a year now, beating Kenny, Jack Carlin and Ryan Owens by almost a full second in the first round of last year's world championships on their way to gold.

Britain have been chipping away at that deficit since, confident in their strategy of peaking for the Games.

Carlin says Britain are "grateful" to the Dutch for raising the bar, but is happy to be the hunter and not the hunted.

"It's so positive at the moment, we're all progressing," said the 22-year-old. "Having that carrot to chase has spurred everyone on to give that little bit extra in training."

The carrot for Kenny is the opportunity to move clear of Hoy and stand alone as Britain's most successful Olympian.

European Games 2019 – Day Seven
Holland have been the dominant force in the men's team sprint for over a year (Martin Rickett/PA)

Beneath his humility, Kenny's drive can be difficult to detect when he is not riding his bike.

He and Laura have only recently taken their gold medals out of a drawer, hanging them on a wall in the kit room at home, but few would bet against them needing to clear space for a handful more between them.

And Tokyo might not even be the end of the road.

"Leading up to Rio I was pretty much adamant I'd had enough and I was going to walk away," Kenny said. "I did walk away and I didn't do anything for a year.

"This time, it's probably more likely to be my last but I am not as adamant this time that it will be. I'm just kind of drifting along and going with the flow a little bit."


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