By Stephen Eisenhammer
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Britain’s Jason Kenny won the men’s track cycling keirin on Tuesday, taking his gold medal haul to six and equaling Chris Hoy’s record for the country’s most Olympic titles.
In a race that was controversially restarted twice without disqualifying any riders, Kenny ultimately had too much pace down the final stretch, recovering from a slow start to finish just clear.
It was his third triumph in Rio, having won in the team sprint and the men’s sprint before the keirin.
After taking gold, Kenny embraced his fiance and fellow gold medal winner Laura Trott, who was in tears in the center of the track. Hoy, the sprint cyclist great whose record haul Kenny matched, cheered from the balcony.
“It just felt like a dream. I guess I’m tired. I was just floating through it,” Kenny said.
Matthijs Buchli of the Netherlands won silver and Malaysia’s Azizulhasni Awang took bronze.
The final was twice stopped after riders were judged to have overtaken too soon the back wheel of the electric bike that sets the pace in early laps.
Usually the riders responsible are disqualified, but on Tuesday, after minutes of tense deliberation, the race was restarted with all six cyclists. The second time, again no riders were disqualified.
That was fortunate for Kenny, who along with Awang was at the front when the gun was fired to stop the first race.
“I think it was the right decision to put everyone back in, obviously I was happy to be put back in,” Kenny said.
British head coach Iain Dyer said the infraction had been too close to call, even supplying officials with Team GB footage showing no clear error had been made.
Dyer said officials did not have a camera with a side-on view and the British footage was also used in the decision not to disqualify German rider Joachim Eilers after the second race was halted for the same infraction.
By the time the race got underway for a third time, a tense quiet hung over the Rio velodrome.
Kenny appeared to hang back as the electric bike slipped aside, perhaps wary of triggering another restart.
As the riders spun into the final lap Kenny, the world’s fastest sprinter, found another level and burst clear of the rest of the pack just before the line.
Still sweating after the race, Kenny declined to be drawn on his plans for the future but hinted he was not quite ready to get off the bike.
“It’s possible to win more,” he said.
(Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Ken Ferris and Bill Rigby)