Callum Skinner has been Britain’s track sprint revelation of this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Anchoring Britain’s team sprint from man three and blitzing through to the final of the individual sprint, the 23 year-old Scot has barely put a foot wrong in Brazil.
Having won gold in the team sprint, the man from Edinburgh now stands between Jason Kenny and his fifth Olympic gold medal when the two line up in the sprint final in Rio on Sunday.
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While Skinner’s performances may have taken some by surprise, the results are final confirmation of talent for the man who has been slated as the ‘next Chris Hoy’ ever since he was first inspired to swing a leg over a bike after watching Hoy win a gold medal in Athens in 2004.
Indeed Skinner began his riding career at the same Meadowbank track that nurtured Hoy; in 2008 when he was crowned national youth champion, the city council even crowned him the inaugural winner of the Chris Hoy Trophy for promising young cyclists.
“He’s a young lad whose come onto the team and whose worked incredibly hard, he’s earnt the spot and he’s shown already that he’s riding with a really mature head,” said Hoy.
“Anyone that comes into the team has been given that kind of title [the ‘next Chris Hoy’] and it must get really quite boring for them to have to listen to the same thing all the time.”
Supported by the Braveheart Fund, Skinner has steadily worked his way through the British Cycling system.
In 2010 he joined the BC Academy and represented Scotland at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. In 2014 he became the first man to ever win all four sprint events – team sprint, individual sprint, keirin and kilo – at the national championships.
2016 was a standout year for Skinner, who won team sprint World Cup overall title with Philip Hindes and Jason Kenny and finished eighth in the individual sprint in the track world championships in London, claiming the scalp of defending champion, Frenchman Gregory Bauge, along the way.
In doing so he has cemented his place as man three in the team pursuit, a hugely demanding role that requires immense power off the start and exceptional strength endurance. None have made it their own since the departure of Hoy from the position after London 2012.
“He was the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle for us, and there’s no doubt he’s done a fantastic job,” said GB head coach Iain Dyer. “It was a fantastic series [in the team sprint], to not only ride that fast once but to do it three times on such limited recovery, at such a high level.”
Only his Rio roommate Jason Kenny qualified faster in the individual sprint in Brazil and Skinner, who coaches describe as laid back but extremely hard-working, appears unfazed by the biggest competition of his career.
The way he stares down his opponents before each match up in the sprint suggests that his confidence is sky high.
Just as Kenny emerged in Beijing in 2008 to win team sprint gold and individual sprint silver behind Chris Hoy, so history seems to be repeating itself. By the end of these Games, Callum Skinner will be the next big name in British track sprinting.