Jason Kenny out rode and out manoeuvred his team mate Callum Skinner to win the Olympic sprint title in Rio on the fourth day in the velodrome. The gold is the fifth in Kenny’s career and it came after two faultless sprints in the velodrome.
Kenny won from behind in the first race. Using the height of the track and the sling-shot effect out of the banking he rushed Skinner down the back straight and had the race won well before the pair came out of the final banking.
In their second race Kenny showed his experience, and his speed, by winning from the front. Skinner tried to move him around the track and force a mistake as they jostled for position, but Kenny had the tactics and the speed. He took a gap going in to the final lap and then produced a 9.9 second final 200m, a pace that Skinner had no answer too. Kenny now hasn’t been beaten in the Olympics in a sprint competition since 2008 when Sir Chris Hoy beat him in the final.
Defending his title moves Kenny further up the oft mentioned table of British Olympic medal winners. With five golds and one silver, only Bradley Wiggins and Chris Hoy sit above him, and he still has the keirin to come. At 28 years of age he also has the 2022 Tokyo Olympics to aim at.
Skinner, who leaves his first Olympics with a gold and silver medal, has been the surprise package of this year’s sprint, as Kenny was in 2008.
The 23-year-old has only competed at two senior world championships in his career but has so far only reached the podium at World Cups.
But the Scot progressed through to the sprint final with a confidence that belied his experience and didn’t lose a single round.
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“The whole journey has been incredible.” Skinner said immediately afterwards. “I only got beat by the world champion and two time olympic champ. He had the legs and the tactics.”
The pair, who won the team sprint on the opening night in velodrome with Philip Hindes, didn’t just meet on the track. They are room mates in Rio and obviously share the same coaching staff. Skinner tweeted overnight that he was trying to nobble his opponent by feeding him MacDonalds.
Kenny admitted that the 24 hours between his three match semi-final against Russia’s Demis Dimetriev and the final, wasn’t the easiest. “I found it quite difficult. My confidence was really knocked with that loss to Dimetriev in the semis. But it woke me up a bit and I took that in to the final today.”
On the track the pair drew lots for which of the GB sprint coaches would push them off from the start line, and then they swapped for the second race. When this situation came around in the 2008 Olympic final the decision was made between the staff and the riders that no tactical advice would be given.
Kenny was quick to praise the staff as soon as he came off the track. “Everyone works so hard for us and we really do appreciate it.” He said. “Everyone is so focused on the Games and we come here, and we’ve got everyone behind us