As cool as cool can be on the track but even after five gold medals, the greatest British female Olympian of all time insists she still gets so nervous before races that she could throw up.
It’s an Olympic Games, so of course there was a gold medal for Laura Kenny and this one may have been the most dominant of them all.
Riding alongside Katie Archibald, Kenny completely controlled the first-ever Olympic women’s madison as the British duo cruised to a victory that means a young girl from Harlow, who only took up cycling when her mother did so to lose weight, is a five-time Olympic champion.
She became the first British woman to take home golds from three separate Games and joins a club previously consisting of solely Sir Chris Hoy, Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Bradley Wiggins and her own husband Jason Kenny – not a knight, yet – as Brits with at least five Olympic titles. Arise Dame Laura.
Add in the team pursuit silver she won earlier this week and Kenny has plenty of Olympic memories to pick from but this one might just mean the most of all.
“I messaged Jason and said I feel like my Olympics ends. I love the team pursuit but I felt relief when it was over because this was the one race I wanted to win – I just feel so relieved.
“It meant everything to us – I’ve never seen Katie so nervous before a race. She was walking round this morning and I was thinking ‘Katie, if you don’t sit down, I’m going to throw up!’
“This nervous energy is spreading all over me and I’m already very nervous. Even before the start, I could have thrown up right that second. It meant so much to us and we’d worked so hard for that medal.”
The madison – a cycling “relay” with hand-slings and crashes aplenty – is the most unpredictable, chaotic, impossible-to-control event the sport has to offer. Except when ridden by Kenny and Archibald apparently.
With tactics honed by racing against GB’s men’s under-23 and junior squads, the British pair dominated from the off at the Izu Velodrome, winning the first sprint and then an unprecedented ten of the 12 throughout the race.
They rode at the front, avoided the crashes that littered the race and even took out their main rivals the Netherlands at one point – triumphing with a mammoth 78 points ahead of Denmark (35) and the Russian Olympic Committee (26).
“Even for an event as unpredictable as the madison it was the most wonderfully boring team madison I’ve ever seen,” said Hoy, on punditry duty, after the race.
“The most assured confident race I’ve ever seen at this level – it was outstanding. They won by three or four bike lengths every time – they had speed, tactics and complete control.”
This is Kenny’s first gold since the birth of her son Albie in 2017 and in fact, since getting married to Jason the previous year.
So it was understandable that the emotion was flowing.
“All week I’ve been saying please don’t ask me about Albie, I’ve never missed him so much,” said Kenny. “When I had Albie, I just wanted to make him so proud.
“At one point, I thought this was just never going to happen to me ever again. I don’t think I’ve won a bike race since I’ve been Kenny.
“I started to think, maybe I shouldn’t have changed my name – maybe Trott was the lucky name. I hope I’ve made him proud.”
Archibald’s role shouldn’t be forgotten – she was just as integral to the madison domination as Kenny and is now a two-time Olympic champion herself, after winning team pursuit gold at Rio 2016.
And the Scot knows exactly which website she’s heading for to help the reality of making Olympic history sink in.
“I’m looking forward to going home and seeing if someone has updated the Wikipedia page,” said Archibald. “You look at the records and the first one at the top is 1908 or whatever. Now it will be 2021 for the women’s madison, right at the top there.
“People will have to scroll past Great Britain – Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald – and I think that’s something pretty cool.”
Pretty cool is an understatement – Team GB’s cycling icons just made history. Again.
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