'It was just too big an opportunity': Jason Kenny had nothing to lose in Keirin final before coming up with Olympic Gold

“Literally just before we rode off, I didn’t want to be on the front and I said to my coach, ‘if they leave the gap, should I just go?’"

Jason Kenny
(Image credit: Getty)

Jason Kenny says the gap afforded to him when he jumped in the men's Keirin final at the Tokyo Olympics was too big of an opportunity to miss, going all-in with his attack off the front and staying away until he crossed the line first, taking his seventh Olympic gold medal.

“It was just too big an opportunity. I didn’t really want to be on the front, I felt like I had a bit of a target on my back with these guys behind," Kenny explained afterward. "When I looked back, I saw a gap, gave it a little squeeze and it got bigger. I just sort of went through it."

Kenny had been fairly downbeat after his qualification for the Keirin quarter-finals, having to go through repechages to progress, saying he would have to re-evaluate where he was at after the Games having so far not shown the form he'd have liked to in the sprint and team sprint.

“I didn’t feel like I was a favourite coming into the finals. I wasn’t as quick as I wanted to be in the sprint and team sprint," Kenny said. "I kind of felt like I had nothing to lose, so I put my head down and went through it."

>>> Jason Kenny wins seventh Olympic gold as he steals away to take Keirin title in Tokyo

It was a move that certainly looked to have taken his rivals by surprise, Matt Glaetzer the next rider in line as Kenny peeled off, the Australian looking around as the chase stuttered, which was all the Brit needed.

“It was such a long way. I felt like the last lap took me about half an hour. But I got there in the end. I still can’t believe I crossed the line on my own," Kenny added.

“Literally just before we rode off, I didn’t want to be on the front and I said to my coach, ‘if they leave the gap, should I just go?’ He didn’t sound very convincing but said, ‘yeah’. I gave it a little squeeze and Matthew Glaetzer didn’t respond.

“I think everyone has had a lot of big rides today and through the week, and maybe he was a little bit reluctant to go too deep too early. Everyone gave a look to each other, and it was just enough for me to step away and get my head down.”

“This was a scary tactical move," said silver medalist Mohd Azizulhasni Awang of how the final had played out. "If I was in the same position, I would have done the same. It was a good move. 

"Full respect to Jason, he is the most decorated Olympic champion in Great Britain. Everyone in the final had the chance to win, so (it depended on) whoever had the guts to make the move, to give the best in the race. And he took the chance, he put himself in the front, and full respect to him."

"I think Matthew Glaetzer shouldn’t have made the gap so big," added third-place Harrie Lavreysen. "And all the other riders couldn’t do anything about it. If I was in the front and had the opportunity, maybe I would also take it."

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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.

Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).

I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.