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History awaits for the golden couple.

Byline: IAN PARKER In Tokyo

LAURA and Jason Kenny will launch their bid for history tomorrow both convinced their chances have been improved by the year's delay to the Tokyo Olympics.

Six-time champion Jason needs one gold medal from his three events - the team sprint, individual sprint and keirin - to move clear of Sir Chris Hoy as Britain's most decorated Olympian.

But depending on how things work out, he could find himself second in his own household as Laura has three opportunities to add to her own four titles.

After 16 months with barely any competition, it is difficult to gauge their chances at a time when Britain's dominance in the velodrome appears under serious threat.

At last year's world championships, the final major competition before lockdown, Jason and his men's sprint team-mates were well off the pace set by the Dutch, while Laura and the women's team pursuit squad were beaten by an American team anchored by Chloe Dygert.

Rumours abound as to what records others might be breaking in training, but the real picture will only be known next week in Izu.

"We can only focus on ourselves, but we're in a better place than we would have been 12 months ago," Jason said.

"We're faster. That's all we can do. If someone turns up and surprises us with something phenomenal, there's not a lot we can do about that."

Though Laura took team pursuit silver in Berlin, she crashed out of the omnium, having suffered a painful spill in the preceding World Cup too.

"If these Games had taken place a year ago, I would have been slightly concerned," the 29-year-old said. "I wouldn't have had the preparation I wanted.

"These extra 12 months have given me time to make sure I was doing everything right, get fitter and stronger than I ever have been."

And Laura believes she will need to be better than ever too - predicting that the team pursuit world record she helped set in Rio will tumble next week.

"I think it definitely will go," she said. "You always hear rumours about your rivals going fast and I reckon it will be broken four times - by more than one team."

Laura will also contest the omnium and the Madison, a race making its Olympic debut in the women's competition, and one in which the battle for places has been intense.

Previous coach Paul Manning had been trying different combinations in events, but after Monica Greenwood took over in December, she was quick to select Kenny and Katie Archibald to give them more time to prepare. Both Kennys have had a change in perspective since Rio, having spent time away from the bike.

"These extra 12 months have given me time to make sure I was doing everything right, get fitter and stronger than I ever have been," said Laura Kenny.

Laura became mother to the couple's son Albie in August of that year, though waited only six months before returning to competition at the 2018 world championships.

Jason effectively retired after the last Games, though he did not tell anyone until he decided to reverse the decision and return once again in late 2017.

At 33, he is heading into his fourth Games and is doing so older and wiser than the rider who won his first team sprint gold in 2008, but said the challenge now is no greater than before.

"You have to be the best in the world to win the Olympics, and that hasn't changed," he said. "The goal is the same."

And though Jason has walked away from the sport once already, he is making no predictions about Tokyo being the end.

"The next Olympic cycle will only be three years, which doesn't seem that long to keep going," he said.

"Since getting back on the bike, I've enjoyed it - I've been a lot more relaxed and I've been determined not to get stressed about it.

"Then again, I might not have a choice - I might get pushed out of the team because we have a strong academy. It might not be down to me."


| Jason and Laura Kenny will be looking to build on the success they enjoyed in Rio when they are in action tomorrow
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:IAN PARKER In Tokyo
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Aug 1, 2021
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