Mike Kenny – the forgotten man of British Paralympic sport?

One of the things that has struck me on many occasions as I’ve been investigating the history of the Paralympic games is the number of false ‘facts’ that are in circulation in a large number of publications regarding both the Games themselves and British participation within them. One such ‘fact’ that is regularly quoted by the British media and others is that Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson is the most successful British Paralympian ever until Beijing 2008 when swimmer David Roberts joined her on 11 gold, 4 silver and 1 bronze medal. Tanni is unarguably the most successful British female Paralympian (although even in that there is a story that I will relate in my next blog).  However, neither Tanni nor David are even close to be Britain’s most successful Paralympian. That honour rests with a swimmer by the name of Mike Kenny, who competed from 1976 in Toronto to Seoul in 1988 winning 16 individual gold medals and 2 silver medals in relays. For the sceptical amongst you the medals are listed below. All the individual gold medals can be confirmed through the International Paralympic Committee results data-base. The two relay medals are as a result of my own research as the Official results only list ‘Great Britain’ as the medallists rather than the individual team members.

Year Event Medal Name
1976 Men’s 25 m Backstroke 1A Gold Kenny, Mike
1976 Men’s 25 m Breaststroke 1A Gold Kenny, Mike
1976 Men’s 25 m Freestyle 1A Gold Kenny, Mike
1980 Men’s 25 m Backstroke 1A Gold Kenny, Mike
1980 Men’s 25 m Breaststroke 1A Gold Kenny, Mike
1980 Men’s 25 m Freestyle 1A Gold Kenny, Mike
1984 Men’s 100 m Freestyle 1A Gold Kenny, Mike
1984 Men’s 25 m Backstroke 1A Gold Kenny, Mike
1984 Men’s 25 m Breaststroke 1A Gold Kenny, Mike
1984 Men’s 25 m Freestyle 1A Gold Kenny, Mike
1984 Men’s 3×25 m Individual Medley 1B Gold Kenny, Mike
1984 Men’s 3×25 m Freestyle Relay 1A-1C Silver Kenny, Mike/ Cairns, Kenneth/ Davies,Chris
1988 Men’s 100 m Freestyle 1A Gold Kenny, Mike
1988 Men’s 25 m Backstroke 1A Gold Kenny, Mike
1988 Men’s 25 m Breaststroke 1A Gold Kenny, Mike
1988 Men’s 50 m Freestyle 1A Gold Kenny, Mike
1988 Men’s 75 m Individual Medley 1A Gold Kenny, Mike
1988 Men’s 3×25 m Freestyle Relay1A-1C Silver Kenny, Mike/ Doughty, Tom/Worrall, Brian

According to my own research, up to and including Beijing 2008 the British all-time medallist list looks as follows:

By Gold Medal

 Male                                                            Female

1. Mike Kenny                  16g 2s 0b             1 Tanni Grey-Thompson          11g 4s 1b

2. David Roberts             11g 4s 1b              2. Isabel Newstead (Nee Barr) 10g 6s 4b

3. Tommy Taylor            10g 1s 5b              3. Caz Walton (Nee Bryant)     10g 2s 5b

 By Total Number of Medals

 1. Mike Kenny          16g 2s 0b (18) 1. Janice Burton                          5g 10s 8b (23)

2. James Anderson   6g 9s 2b (17)  2. Isabel Newstead (Nee Barr) 10g 6s 4b (20)

3. David Roberts      11g 4s 1b (16)  3. Sarah Storey (Nee Bailey)      7g 8s 3b (18)

Let’s hope Mike Kenny starts to get the recognition he deserves and that people writing on the subject in the lead up to London 2012 and beyond start to get their facts right!

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15 responses to “Mike Kenny – the forgotten man of British Paralympic sport?

  1. Hannah Griffiths

    Mike kenny is infact my grandad! Iam so glad to see there is more information on him, on the internet as is a great man and more people should no how well he has done!!

    • You’re welcome Hannah. I totally agree that he deserves far more recognition for his achievements!

    • Hi Hannah,

      I’m a journalist desperately trying to contact your grandfather for a profile, but can’t find any contact details anywhere. Would you be able to put me in touch? Best to message me here http://www.facebook.com/joemiller6725.

      Cheers,

      Joe Miller

    • Dear Hannah,

      My name is Michael Livingstone and I am a Producer and co owner of an independent TV company called 2LE Media (www.2lemedia.com). We typically specialise in comedy entertainment shows, and also do a lot of work with charities such as Stand Up To Cancer and Scope. We are currently working with C4 on their coverage of the 2016 Paralympics.

      In researching various items I’ve come across the incredible story of your Grandad Mike Kenny, and I’ve been fascinated by everything I’ve read and can’t believe that there hasn’t yet been a TV documentary about Mike’s story.

      I’m very keen to get in touch with Mike, as I’m sure that if Mike was interested we could discuss a potential documentary with C4. Would you be able to give me an email or phone number on which I could contact him?

      My mobile number is 0777 960 1214

      Kind Regards,

      Michael Livingstone

  2. what disability does he have?
    because i have chosen to write about him at school and i need to know

    • Hi Hannah, it would appear that Mike had an accident in 1971 that damaged his spinal cord and he started swimming as part of his rehabilitation at Southport Spinal Injury Unit. From his classification for his swimming races it would also appear that Mike is a quadraplegic, which means the spinal injury affected the use of both his legs and his arms. When only the legs are affected it is called paraplegia. I hope this helps with the piece you are writing!

      • Hannah Griffiths

        I’ve only just seen these messages! Sorry guys! But yes that information is correct! I love my grandad a lot and I am very proud! Thank you for writting about him. He deserves more people to learn about his achivements.

    • Hi Hannah,
      I have just been reading about your grandad and would be honoured if he would like to have his bio and endorse my new book Aspire to Greatness. A Legacy To Inspire Generations. Dame Mary Peters is in it. Please e-mail me at john@drjohnclements.com

  3. I see he lived in england but is it true he’s welsh?

  4. Yes he is also my cousin, and is English…very very proud of him and all he has achieved

  5. Yes he is english but his Dad was from county Galway Ireland and hes also a cousin of mine

  6. very useful article on mike,i don’t think a lot of people realise what he achived as there wasn’t the media coverage like today.i think sarah storey will be catching up with him soon.

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