By Martyn Herman
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Callum Skinner’s attempts to unsettle British team mate Jason Kenny with mindgames proved futile on Sunday as he was forced to settle for silver in the Olympic track cycling sprint final.
And they were always doomed really because defending Olympic champion Kenny, fast establishing himself as one of the all-time great British cyclists, said he prepared for the final by pretending he was racing against himself.
“I race as if I’m racing myself and if I couldn’t have beaten myself then I didn’t really do it right,” the 28-year-old told reporters after a dominant victory over the man he has been sharing digs with at the Olympic village.
Skinner said the 24 hours prior to the final at the Rio velodrome had provided an opportunity for the Olympic debutant to try some lighthearted digs at his senior partner.
“I kept telling him how strong I was and he kept telling me how good he felt,” Skinner, who impressed when playing the anchor role for Kenny and Philip Hindes for team sprint gold, told reporters after the ceremony.
“But he kept telling me how strong he was. You can’t help but laugh while you’re saying it so it’s all in good fun.”
Kenny’s seniority was evident on Sunday as he won relatively comfortably in both heats, taking his Olympic gold medal count level with Bradley Wiggins and one behind Chris Hoy.
“I wouldn’t say it’s harder being beaten by a team mate,” Skinner said. “Jason 100 percent deserved that, he was better tactically and in the legs.
“I’m still looking for that first win over him.”
At 23 Skinner has time on his side and is already being tipped as the man to lead the British team forward.
The Scot has established himself as the man to help fill the void left by six-times Olympic champion Chris Hoy who retired after London 2012.
“It’s good for the team,” Kenny said of having a serious sprint rival in the team.
“In the past we have been kind of hanging on and it’s been grim to be in the team. We need each other.
“Now Callum has made that final step up and we have a really strong younger team coming through as well and we can be more consistently competitive at the world championships.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Andrew Hay)