By Martyn Herman
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Jason Kenny proved conclusively he is still top dog in the British team, and the world, when it comes to track sprinting, leaving compatriot Callum Skinner in his slipstream to power to a fifth Olympic gold medal on Sunday.
The training partners — who put the wheels of the British cycling juggernaut in motion with team sprint gold on Thursday — had set up a head-to-head in the individual final in the Rio velodrome but the 28-year-old Kenny dished out a harsh lesson.
Using all his experience, Kenny responded to the challenge from within the ranks with two dominant rides, winning both heats with something to spare.
Kenny has now won as many gold medals for Britain as fellow cyclist Bradley Wiggins and could take his tally to six when he contests his final event, the keirin, on Tuesday.
The two finalist have been sharing digs in the Olympic Village and know each other’s race styles inside out after thousands of training session together.
But come the real thing there was only going to be one winner with world champion Kenny at his devastating best.
“It’s really special, it’s not really sunk in,” Kenny told reporters. “It was weird because we finished the semis yesterday which were a real scrap and had 24 hours to sit on it.
“It’s a bit strange and it feels like a bit of a lull now.”
Asked whether the previous night had been awkward, Kenny said he and Skinner had chatted about the progress of other British athletes at the Games.
“(Andy) Murray, heptathlon and (Greg) Rutherford,” he said.
Skinner’s emergence has prompted comparisons with six-times Olympic gold medalist Chris Hoy, his fellow Scot who was commentating on the race at trackside.
Kenny said the past few days had reminded him of Beijing eight years ago when he was the new kid on the block and Hoy was at the peak of his powers.
On that occasion he won the team sprint alongside Hoy but had to play second fiddle to his superior in the individual event where Hoy won gold and he took the silver.
“It took me back to Beijing a little bit,” he said. “I remember sitting having breakfast with Chris that morning and it was a bit the same this time.
“But I enjoyed it, it was a bit lonely in London with only one (rider) per nation and being on my own in the finals.
“I tried to convince myself that I would probably be feeling better as I have a few more years training than Callum, but in reality I was hurting this morning, I knew it would be a fight.”
Britain have dominated the track cycling program in Rio, winning four of the six events completed and with Kenny’s fiance Laura Trott targeting a second gold as she begins the defense of her omnium title on Monday.
(Editing by Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond)