Britain added to its leading Olympic gold medal total in track cycling Monday evening at the Velodrome in London.
You could say 24-year-old Jason Kenny has been the unheralded member of the British track cycling team, but that is about to change because he now has his first individual gold medal. It came in what many consider the glamour event in men’s cycling, the sprint.
Often called match sprint, the head-to-head elimination event - a best two-of-three races - is somewhat like a game of cat and mouse. Tactics play a big part as the cyclists maneuver slowly to try for an advantageous position in the first two laps to set up the sprint in the final lap, which is only timed over the last 200 meters.
The crowd noise in the Olympic Velodrome was almost deafening for the final as Kenny crossed the line first in two straight races against French world champion Gregory Bauge. Shane Perkins of Australia won the bronze medal.
British cycling selected Kenny for the individual event ahead of 36-year-old defending champion Chris Hoy, who last Thursday teamed with Kenny and Philip Hindes to win gold in the team sprint in a world record time. Hoy also has five career Olympic gold medals, which equals the second best in British history.
Kenny was relieved he could fulfill big expectations.
“Before I went off for the very last ride, it kind of dawned on me that if Chris was in my shoes here that there was no way he could lose this one," he said. "So it was just a case of getting in there and justifying my place, I guess. So I was really pleased obviously with the outcome. And it’s just a real shame, I guess, we couldn’t have both people in there.”
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Britain won seven of the 10 gold medals in track cycling. Here in London, the hosts have now won five of the seven events, with the final three to be contested Tuesday night.
At his post-race news conference, Kenny tried to explain how the Brits do it.
When it comes to the Olympics, we just try to make sure we get every little detail right, and that’s what we did in Beijing, and we’re doing the same again here," he said. "And, you know, it’s not like we’re winning by miles and miles and miles, but we’ve got just enough to keep our nose in front, I think. And it’s not one little thing, it’s just by doing everything.”
Four years ago in Beijing, Jason Kenny won the silver medal in the individual sprint and a gold in team sprint. Add those to his two gold medals here and he will start to be mentioned right up there with Hoy as well as countryman Bradley Wiggins. Wiggins took gold in the Olympic men’s time trial here after last month becoming the first Brit to win the prestigious Tour de France.