Is Jason Kenny Britain’s most underrated sportsman?

It's time to give Jason Kenny and his achievements the recognition they deserve

There’s one remarkable fact about Jason Kenny. This quiet, shy man from Bolton has never been beaten in any competition in the Olympic Games, except on just one occasion.

That was by Chris Hoy, in the final of the individual sprint in Beijing in 2008, when Kenny was just 20 years old.

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It’s an incredible record, and last night on the BBC Hoy called Kenny the greatest athlete he has ever come up against.

“I always judge my own tactics on whether I would have beaten myself,” Kenny said when asked how, if he were riding for another country, would he go about beating Jason Kenny. “I think if I’ve got it right then I shouldn’t have beaten myself.

“But I don’t know. At the end of the day I qualified first and won the sprint, which is just a dream outcome.”

Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny

Chris Hoy is the only man ever to beat Jason Kenny in the Olympic Games

Kenny has won as many gold medals as Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Bradley Wiggins, and is one gold away from equalling Hoy and becoming Britain’s most successful Olympian.

His ability to hit world-beating form once every four years for three Olympic cycles – Kenny has won ‘just’ three world titles in the eight years between Beijing and Rio – is one of the most underrated achievements of any British sportsman or woman.

A knighthood is surely in the offing post Rio, whether he manages to turn his remarkable vein of form into keirin gold on Tuesday or not. ‘Sir Jason’ is surely just a matter of time.

So why isn’t Kenny Great Britain’s cycling poster boy? Perhaps because he’s following on from Hoy, who with his blond hair, thunderous thighs and instant media magnetism became a modern-day Hercules as Britain’s track cyclists shot into the limelight in Athens.

Kenny accepts that he just doesn’t have the same public personality as other British riders – and that includes his fiancée Laura Trott – and he’s come to terms with that.

“I can’t help being a miserable sod, I’ve just learned to accept that,” he joked after winning his fifth gold. “I enjoy it, I like flying under the radar a little bit, and just getting on with what I like doing which is racing.”

Olympians tell us about their heros

Since his first gold medal in Beijing, Britain has opened its eyes to the wider world of cycling and British riders have started to win big. Kenny meanwhile remains slightly misunderstood.

After he’d won his fifth gold in the track sprint, one reporter earnestly asked Kenny whether he was considering “turning professional, and maybe joining Team Sky now?”

“I’d love to but unfortunately my event is 200m, not 200km,” he said politely. “I think I’m a long way away from that.”

No-one does quiet, reserved Olympic champions quite like us Brits. Take for example Steven Burke and Ed Clancy, the former with two golds and the latter unbeaten in the team pursuit over three Games.

Kenny falls into that camp too. “People keep saying to me that I’ve won five, but I don’t feel any different to the other day when I only had three,” he said. “It is really strange.”

Speaking on Saturday, Sir Bradley Wiggins said that Kenny could carry on until the 2024 Games “if he can be bothered to get out of bed after the Olympics.”

“He could end up with 12 gold medals by the next two Olympiads,” Wiggins pointed out.

Six gold medals or not, Jason Kenny will still be Jason Kenny, the quiet man from Bolton whose achievements have been criminally underrated. There’s something very admirable in that.