She may be Great Britain’s most successful female Olympian but Laura Kenny admits she had to overcome a confidence crisis upon her return to major competition after giving birth.
The 26-year-old four-time gold medallist will have 18-month-old son Albie at trackside when she competes alongside husband Jason at the World Track Cycling Championships in Poland next week.
Kenny endured a mixed return at the European Championships in Glasgow last year and admitted she took some time to adjust to the fact that she still belonged in elite company.
Kenny told Press Association Sport: “The standard moves on all the time and when I left the sport after Rio it continued to grow and move on.
“It meant I basically had to re-learn the whole thing. When I returned at the World Cup in Canada I felt a little bit out of my comfort zone with everything happening at full speed ahead.
“But it just takes a few events to get used to it. I was pretty average in Glasgow and that was a learning curve and a wake-up call. I’ve re-learned and moved on and I feel much stronger going to Poland.”
Kenny will compete in the team pursuit and the omnium as she continues to build towards next year’s Olympics in Tokyo, where the plan is for her young son Albie to make his own Olympic bow.
The sleepless nights have continued to make the work-life balance a challenging one but for Kenny the prospect of making the Games a real family affair gives it an extra-special motivating factor.
“When I was growing up I never thought I’d be in a position where I’d have the chance to go to my third Olympic cycle and we would have our little boy there watching,” added Kenny.
“It will be just before his third birthday so, assuming I’m selected, he will be at the stage where he is starting to understand a little bit about what mummy is doing when she goes to work.”
Daunted as she occasionally may have been by the prospect, Kenny never wavered in her intention to return to the sport after giving birth, in contrast to husband Jason whose plan after Rio had been to quit the sport for good.
“I think having the year away gave me the motivation to come back and give it another go,” said Kenny.
“It has really helped because I remember how in 2013, the year after London, I didn’t really know where I wanted to go. I really struggled to find my feet again but this has almost made me want it more.”