Thursday, 22 May 2014

Jason Kenny: Commonwealth Games won't pay the bills but we still want to win gold

Kenny and Laura Trott will compete at the Commonwealth Games
He revealed that Glasgow medals will not be financially rewarding
Kenny and Trott took home two golds each at London 2012
Trott has her doubts about petition to introduce a women's Tour de France
Kenny said, 'there would be deaths' were it to be introduced

Jason Kenny can appreciate the romance of winning gold at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, at a velodrome bearing the name of his friend Sir Chris Hoy, the greatest track cyclist Britain has produced and the man he has long been tipped to succeed.

But, pleasant as a Commonwealth gold medal hanging round his neck might feel, Kenny knows it will not put food on the table or heat the house he shares with girlfriend and fellow cyclist Laura Trott.

‘We like to race for all the romantic reasons - to be Commonwealth champion - but we’re also racing to pay the bills and the bills just aren’t really paid at the Commonwealth Games,’ said Kenny.

A lot of members of the public probably see the Commonwealths as second only to the Olympics. But when you’re actually involved in the sport it doesn’t seem that way. It gets devalued a bit. It’s a real grey area, but for us it doesn’t fit into any kind of category.’

It is an admirably honest assessment of an event that critics see as antiquated and irrelevant from a sporting perspective. But Kenny’s views will come as a blow to Commonwealth Games organisers as they try to lure the biggest stars to Scotland this summer. Even more worrying is the fact they appear to be shared by Trott, another of Britain’s most-loved athletes.

‘A lot of people don’t even take it seriously,’ she told Sportsmail, ‘It’s the same with a lot of countries. I went to Delhi (Commonwealth Games) as a youngster (in 2010) and there was barely anyone there. It’s not the same as a World Championships and it’s certainly not the same as an Olympic Games.’

Both Kenny and Trott recognise the financial benefits of winning gold at the Olympics. They took home two each at London 2012, a glorious fortnight that concluded with their very public ‘outing’ as a couple, when a picture emerged of them kissing while watching the beach volleyball sat behind David Beckham and next to Prince Harry. Their success helped draw in sponsorship and advertising deals.
It’s the only time you get that kind of exposure,’ said Kenny, ‘For other sports they get lots of exposure between the four years but for us, every four years track cycling comes to the forefront and it’s important for us to put on a big show.’

They are back at the Lee Valley Velopark almost two years on, in their role as ambassadors for Disney Aim High 2014 mentorship programme, training up the next generation of budding cyclists. Although they don’t talk about their relationship in public, they have a natural rapport, batting ideas off each other.

The pair are not overly concerned about the British team’s performance at the World Track Championships in Cali in March where their five medal haul fell two short of Head Coach Shane Sutton’s target.

‘British Cycling put a lot of emphasis on the Olympics so if we didn’t win another gold medal until the Games in Rio, they’d prefer it than for us to win four gold medals and then lose at the Games,’ said Trott, who won silver in the omnium at the World Championships.

‘We peak for the Olympics, we get all the equipment and everything thrown at us for the Olympics whereas for the World Championships we don’t get all that. So you’re definitely going to see dips in performance.’ The men came home without any medals but Kenny, 26, is fierce in his belief that gender is irrelevant in British Cycling’s success.

‘Medals are medals no matter who wins them and what sex they are,’ said Kenny, ‘If you want equality, which I’m assuming most women do, then you can’t say, “We won all the gold medals” when you do. Laura’s gold medals are worth just as much as mine. I think sport’s a good equaliser in that sense.’

Trott, 22, came 55th in the inaugural Women’s Tour earlier this month, a professional women’s road race on an unprecedented scale in Britain.

She said: ‘I think it’s a great step. It’s quite smart to say we don’t want it to run alongside the men’s race. I think women’s road race will continue to grow. It’s slowly getting bigger and it’s nice that GB is leading the way.’

Trott also endorses La Course by Le Tour, a one-day stage at the finish of the Tour de France for women road racers but stops short of getting behind the petition by Olympic teammate Emma Pooley and Dutch Olympic road race champion Marianne Vos for a women’s Tour de France.

She says: ‘I’m not so swayed on the whole Tour de France idea. They do have a stage race (La Course) but some women don’t agree with it because it doesn’t go up the classic hills. But I just don’t think it should run along the same course as the men’s because we would never, ever complete 300km. You’d get two riders rolling in after 10 hours.'

‘There’d be deaths,’ Kenny predicts.

‘I just don’t think it would be realistic,’ adds Trott, ‘We ride a tour for five days and at the end of it we’re completely knackered. For three weeks - no chance. I certainly wouldn’t finish, put it that way.’

As for the young girls Trott has been mentoring, she insists there are far more positive female role models to inspire them than there were a decade ago.

‘At the Olympics there was a lot of female medal winners so they have a lot of women to look up to,’ said Trott, ‘Ten years ago, there weren’t as many. For me personally, when I was a child, I could play with what I wanted.

'If I wanted to play with an action man, my parents would go buy me an action man. It wasn’t stereotyped like that in our family. I guess sport in itself has always been a male-dominated thing so it is a little more equal now that there are more role models.

‘If a lady wants to go in the kitchen then she can but if she wants to go on a dirt bike then she can do that too.’

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