Kenny con­quers Skin­ner for fifth gold

Bri­tish pair make it a one-two in the sprint Bolton rider moves into third on all-time list

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - RIO 2016 - By Tom Cary in Rio de Janeiro

He is the five-time Olympic cham­pion who is not even the most famous per­son in his own house. Ja­son Kenny suc­cess­fully de­fended his Olympic sprint ti­tle last night, beat­ing his young room-mate and team sprint part­ner Cal­lum Skin­ner 2-0 in the all-Bri­tish fi­nal to join some se­ri­ously il­lus­tri­ous com­pany.

Only Sir Bradley Wig­gins and Sir Chris Hoy, Bri­tish Cy­cling’s other great re­peat cham­pi­ons, now sit above the Bolton man on the all­time list of Bri­tish Olympians, with Kenny oc­cu­py­ing third place on the leaderboard, one above Sir Steve Red­grave by virtue of the sil­ver medal he took in Bei­jing to Red­grave’s bronze from Seoul.

And Kenny has the po­ten­tial to move ahead of Wig­gins and level with Hoy in terms of gold medals won when he tack­les the keirin to­mor­row. You would not bet against him given the form he is in.

Last night’s all-Bri­tish af­fair had strong echoes of 2008, when Hoy beat a 20-year-old Kenny 2-0 in the fi­nal in Bei­jing. Eight years on Kenny ad­mit­ted it felt “strange” to have to race his own room-mate, but hav­ing gone through it once al­ready added that he had “en­joyed” the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Skin­ner had in any case de­fused any ten­sion by tweet­ing a pic­ture of Kenny in front of McDon­ald’s the night be­fore their fi­nal ac­com­pa­nied with the text: “Look­ing forward to the fi­nal to­mor­row with room & team mate @Ja­sonKenny107 I’m treat­ing him to a nu­tri­tious meal.”

Kenny, the reign­ing Olympic and world cham­pion, be­gan the even­ing as the heavy favourite, with all the ex­pe­ri­ence as well as the ex­tra speed we saw in qual­i­fy­ing on Fri­day when he set a new Olympic record of 9.551sec in the fly­ing 200m, two-tenths faster than Skin­ner who had just bro­ken the Olympic record him­self.

Hoy was cer­tainly back­ing his old team-mate rather than his young com­pa­triot who has re­ally come of age at th­ese Games but whose pro­gres­sion to the fi­nal was a com­plete sur­prise.

“If Kenny plays to his strengths I think he’ll have too much speed for Skin­ner. If not, Skin­ner has a chance...” he tweeted.

Ac­tu­ally, you got the im­pres­sion that which­ever way Skin­ner rode he was go­ing to be up against it. And that is no slight to Skin­ner. It is sim­ply an ac­knowl­edge­ment that Kenny was the faster man. And the fact that this track al­lows rid­ers to come over the top and to lead out. Kenny did both.

In the first heat, the 28-year-old started on the high side of the track and fol­lowed Skin­ner around un­til com­ing around the out­side of the Scot on the fi­nal bend.

In the sec­ond heat, it was Kenny’s turn to lead and though Skin­ner tried to force his team-mate into a mis­take, duck­ing and div­ing, Kenny was hav­ing none of it, watch­ing the Scot like a hawk and then hit­ting the ac­cel­er­a­tor on the fi­nal lap. Skin­ner was un­able to come around him.

Skin­ner looked ini­tially gut­ted – as you would ex­pect – but quickly picked him­self up. A gold and a sil­ver from his first Olympics? The 23-year-old has far ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions and there is still another medal chance to come in the keirin.

Kenny, the 2013 world cham­pion, will be among the favourites for

that event. If he wins it he would be a six-time Olympic cham­pion, the joint most of any Bri­tish sports­man. He shrugged when that was put to him.

“Peo­ple keep say­ing I have won five but I don’t feel any dif­fer­ent from the other day when I only had three,” he said. “It’s not sunk in yet. Still got the keirin to go. I prob­a­bly won’t let it sink in. I’ll go back, re­lax as much as pos­si­ble and hope­fully give my­self the best chance pos­si­ble.”

Such is the glut of medals cur­rently be­ing hoovered up by the Bri­tish squad it would likely get over­looked, any­way.

A few weeks ago Kenny made head­lines when he pointed out that he did not have much spon­sor­ship be­cause he was “not pretty enough”, in stark con­trast to his fi­ancée, the three-time Olympic cham­pion Laura Trott.

“I wasn’t meant to be moan­ing,” he said: “It’s just a fact of life I’ve come to live with. I’m not very mar­ketable, which is fine. I can’t help be­ing a mis­er­able sod. I’ve just ac­cepted that. I like fly­ing un­der the radar a lit­tle bit and get­ting on with what I like do­ing which is rac­ing.”

When push comes to shove: Ja­son Kenny (left) holds off Cal­lum Skin­ner

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