WHEN Jason Kenny first started cycling as a teenager, he never imagined he could make a career out of it — let alone go on to become an Olympic champion.
His laid back but competitive nature has played a part in his success, but the 26-year-old says more should be done to inspire other young athletes to pursue their sporting dreams.
Jason and his girlfriend, fellow cyclist Laura Trott, both say role models were vital to their careers and have now signed up as mentors for young cyclists aged seven to 14 in the Disney Aim High programme.
Jason says training alongside Olympic champions Chris Hoy and Jason Queally was “invaluable” to his climb up the cycling ranks.
The Farnworth athlete said: “I think there are mentors out there but you have to go out and find them.
“A lot of people are not encouraged for that reason these days. I had that experience myself. You’re not always encouraged to think big.
“You’re encouraged to go to school, do your A-levels, go to university and pursue a career. Academic studies are very important but it’s equally important not to stifle people’s dreams. It’s a great shame if that happens and I think there is a lot of talent that goes to waste.
“It wasn’t until I was 17 that it became apparent I was good enough to make a career out of cycling. I had just been going along with it and started doing my A-levels. I never thought I could make a living out of it until then.”
The former Mount St Joseph’s School pupil went on to win Olympic gold medals in Beijing and London but this year failed to win a medal at the World Championships.
With such ups and downs and the Rio de Janeiro Olympics two years away, how does Jason stay motivated?
He said: “I’m naturally a competitive person. The results have not come easy and I know that if I don’t put in the hard work I won’t get the results. Your form can fall away at any time and that keeps me motivated.”
He says training with his girlfriend Laura Trott also helps him stay on track.
He added: “It’s always good to be in that environment and important to have that support. I lived on my own for a while and I struggled with my training.
"When I moved in with another cyclist that helped and it’s the same with Laura. We live together and train together and it definitely helps.
“We’re on the road to Rio now so we’ve got to start building a base for that. The training is hard but the real difficulty is keeping on top of other things in life and staying committed in training.
“It would be good to train and do nothing else but different things come along. It’s a bit of a juggle but you always have to stay 100 per cent committed.”
So with all this training, how does the cyclist relax?
“Watching telly and car racing. I try and get out for a race when I can. My parents still live in Bolton so I come home every other weekend for my Sunday dinner, because I like to be fed.”
Jason and Laura's training session with the four lucky competitiion winners will be available to watch from Monday, May 26 on the Disney Channel, Disney XD and online by visiting: disney.co.uk/aimhigh