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
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