Cycling golf, beating the boys and surviving a collapsed lung – the making of Laura Kenny, a great British sportswoman

What happened was pretty special, it turns out. After winning gold at Madison alongside Katie Archibald on Friday, Kenny returns to Charlotte Dujardin’s level as Britain’s most decorated Olympian with six Olympic medals, including five gold. And she’ll have the chance to add one more, as she’s aiming for another individual medal at the Omnium on Sunday. There is no doubt that she is among the greats of British sport.

But what is pushing her? What created this winning machine?

Childhood asthma “shaped her”

Kenny was born six weeks premature, struggling with a collapsed lung, when she was born on April 24, 1992 at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex. Adrian Trott, her father, remembers those difficult first weeks as his daughter struggled with her breathing in intensive care.

“I’m not a medical expert, but I think there is always a potential with a cesarean for there to be something like that [a collapsed lung], said Kenny’s father. “Because they’re not ‘kicked out’, so to speak, the doctors just give them that little breath of oxygen to flush out the mucus… Now if that caused the lung to collapse, I don’t know, c was just one of those things. But for the first two years of her life, she just seemed to have a cold all the time.

“The pediatrician looking after her – we were in the hospital every two or three weeks – wanted to see her only so he could hear her chest emerging. It never happened. So somewhere between two and three [years old], he said he thought she might have asthma. That’s when she got her first nebulizer.

It was then that the Trotts received life-changing advice. “We were encouraged to keep her active,” says Trott. “Just to try and develop that lung function. So things like Tumble Tots [gymnastics for pre-school age children], trampoline, family biking, swimming… there is no doubt in my mind that those early years shaped her.

“She didn’t like losing to boys”

Kenny was naturally athletic, adept at most of the things she did. With a sister two years older, she was also competitive. “I don’t think they were particularly competitive with each other, but there was no doubt that they both enjoyed winning,” Trott recalls. “Snakes and ladders, whatever. There is definitely this competitive gene in Laura’s body.

It was obvious to Bruton when Kenny started riding at Welwyn Wheelers. “Oh yeah, she didn’t like to lose,” she laughs. “Especially for the boys. But one thing I will say is that if she lost, instead of throwing her toys out of the pram or having a temper tantrum, it would make her more focused and determined to do better next time.

Bruton says those early days were about building confidence, with an emphasis on skills rather than results. “I probably shouldn’t alert British Cycling, but there’s this long incline all the way to the track at Welwyn and they used to go down that incline and practice the turns on the track,” she said. laughing.

“And we used to do things like golf on a bike – try to get a golf ball all around the track using just their bikes – or football on a bike to improve bike handling skills.

“We just tried to make it fun and inclusive. And it was all mixed up, adults and children. We ended up with a great group that included [sister] Emma Trott, who obviously ended up as an international rider, and Andrew Fenn, who rode for QuickStep and was a U23 world bronze medalist on the road.

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