Laura Kenny says she was “heartbroken” by England’s exit from the football World Cup, but believes the exploits of the Lionesses can help herald a new era for women’s sport.

Almost 12 million viewers watched England’s defeat to the United States at the semi-final stage on Tuesday and the unprecedented interest it generated is set to continue when the Netball World Cup begins in Liverpool next week.

Kenny, Britain’s most successful female Olympian, has always been acutely aware of the legacy she will leave – and believes the opportunity to provide more role models for young girls has never been more evident.

Laura Kenny
Laura Kenny believes women’s sport is heading into a new era (Martin Rickett/PA)

Kenny told PA: “When I was growing up we had a few female role models like Kelly Holmes and Victoria Pendleton but they were very few and since London 2012 it has improved.

“The way the public and media have got behind the women’s World Cup has been fantastic. I was heart-broken when they were knocked out but the viewing figures made it feel like the start of a new era.

“With the Netball World Cup coming up straight away too, I think this is really the start of something big for women’s sport.

“When you are going through the tricky teenage years it’s too easy to sit on your butt in front of a computer and forget about your well-being. We can never stop pushing to change that.”

Despite her historic levels of success, Kenny said she still finds it “weird” when she is held up as an idol herself – yet that legacy is set to strengthen if she manages to add to her medal collection in Tokyo.

“It still feels weird because I just ride a bike because I enjoy it,” added Kenny. “Sometimes it’s easy to forget about the impression you’re making on other people, but it’s obviously a good thing.”

Parenthood plus a rapidly increasing small-holding at the home she shares with her husband, six-times Olympic champion Jason, has given Kenny a different perspective for the final push towards Japan.

The couple recently adopted two ducks – dubbed Cheese and Quackers – from a local sanctuary, and their garden pond subsequently became crowded by the arrival of a family of wild ducks with eight ducklings.

“With the ducks and riding a bike and being a mum, I don’t find I have much time for other things,” added Kenny.

“Whatever happens in between, it’s all about focusing on the main target and that is making sure you peak for the Olympics every four years.”

:: Laura Kenny was speaking on behalf of Toyota to promote The Nation’s Biggest Sports Day on August 24. Sign up at