Kenny collected seven gold medals and two silvers across four Olympic Games; 33-year-old had openly discussed the idea of carrying on until Paris, but has instead accepted a role to become British Cycling’s men’s podium sprint coach
Last Updated: 24/02/22 12:03am
Britain’s most decorated Olympian, cyclist Sir Jason Kenny, has announced his retirement from racing to move into coaching.
The 33-year-old has this week formally begun work as British Cycling’s men’s podium sprint coach, overseeing riders who were team-mates until his appointment.
Kenny, who won a stunning keirin gold in Tokyo last summer to claim a seventh Olympic title 13 years after his first in Beijing, had been planning to keep going until the Paris Games in 2024 but said the opportunity to coach the British squad was one he could not pass up.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” said Kenny, who was knighted in the New Year Honours List. “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.”
The move was not long in the planning. British Cycling advertised for the role on LinkedIn last month, ironically illustrating the advert with a picture of Kenny, who chose to put in what he called a “speculative” application a day before the deadline without discussing it with senior coaches first.
“The job ad came up and I ummed and ahed a bit,” added Kenny. “I was full-time training at the time, but I’ve started to ache a lot more these days. I thought, I don’t even know if I’m going to make it to Paris, so I could commit for three years and get nothing out of it.
Seven – Kenny won seven Olympic golds and nine medals in all, leading all British athletes in both categories.
Five – his wife Laura holds the same accolades among female British Olympians with five golds and six total medals, the latter figure matched by Charlotte Dujardin.
Four – Kenny won gold medals at four successive Olympics, from Beijing 2008 to Tokyo 2020.
Three – He also won gold medals at three separate World Championships, in 2011, 2013 and 2016, and 10 total medals in the event. He also has a European Championships keirin title to his name and a pair of Commonwealth Games silvermedals.
42.600 – Kenny’s time with team-mates Philip Hindes and Sir Chris Hoy to win team sprint gold at London 2012 was a world record at the time, since broken by teams from Germany and Holland. Kenny, Hindes and Callum Skinner won with a then-Olympic record of 42.440 at Rio 2016.
“This opportunity might not come here again. If they got a good coach they could be in the role for potentially 10 years, so I thought I’d go for it now…I think if I hadn’t got the job I would have carried on (racing) in all likelihood.”
Kenny has retired once before, silently stepping away after winning team sprint, individual sprint and keirin gold at the 2016 Rio Games, without announcing his decision until he reversed it a year later. This time it is more definitive and, Kenny said, much harder.
“Last time I didn’t realise it but I was just cooked,” he said. “I’d never really taken a break (in 10 years), so I just stepped away. Because I never planned on coming back I completely switched off and got that re-fresh.
“And since I came back into it I’ve really enjoyed it again. So this time I’m absolutely loving it, so now I’m going to quit!
“In Rio I was quite happy to see the back of it. But then since coming back and being refreshed it’s a lot harder to walk away.”
Kenny said the decision had been taken jointly with his wife Laura, Britain’s most successful female Olympian, who won her fifth gold with victory in the Madison alongside Katie Archibald last summer.
He replaces Scott Pollock, who had served as sprint coach in an interim role following the dismissal of Kevin Stewart in November 2020.
Kenny’s new role will involve longer hours and more travel than racing as he will no longer pick and choose competitions and training camps, but Kenny believes it will also allow him more quality time with their son Albie, who turned four last August.
Hoy: Kenny will be a success as coach
Sir Chris Hoy has backed Kenny to make a success of his new coaching role after Britain’s most successful Olympian announced his retirement from competition.
Hoy won team sprint gold alongside Kenny at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing – the first of Kenny’s seven Olympic golds – and the Scot said he was looking forward to seeing his former team-mate move into the role of men’s podium sprint coach with British Cycling.
“I was really excited to hear that Jason has been appointed as the men’s sprint coach,” Hoy said. “He was a fantastic team-mate, 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.”
British Cycling’s performance director Stephen Park said: “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.”