LONDON, England (VN) — The post-race press conference for Olympic sprint champion Jason Kenny of Great Britain and Grégory Baugé of France took a turn towards the comedic on Monday evening when Baugé turned the tables, taking the microphone to ask several questions of the British rider.
After years of dominating the men’s match sprint, Baugé was in near disbelief to have been beaten two sprints to zero by Kenny, who has never beaten the French champion before.
Baugé has won the world sprint title on four occasions, beating Kenny for the rainbow jersey at the last two, but the Frenchman was stripped of his 2011 title for one missed out-of-competition test and two infringements of the computerized whereabouts system within an 18-month span; the UCI handed world title to Kenny retroactively.
Kenny’s gold medal Monday was his second of these Games, to go with the team sprint medal he won — over France — on Thursday. He also won a gold medal in the team sprint in Beijing in 2008, as well as a silver medal at those Games, when he finished behind his compatriot Chris Hoy. Baugé did not compete in Beijing.
With Kenny’s gold, Great Britain now holds five of seven gold medals in track cycling at these London Games. That tally could end up being eight of 10 medals on Tuesday if Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Laura Trott are victorious. (Pendleton is currently the top seed in the women’s sprint and Trott is leading the omnium after three events.)
After a journalist asked Baugé why Great Britain is so good in track cycling, Baugé appeared flummoxed.
“I don’t know,” he said after a long pause. “If I knew, I would tell you. It helps that they are racing at home, in front of the British public.”
Baugé then asked if he, rather than the press, could ask a few questions of Kenny.
“You were the silver medalist in 2008. Then you prepared for four years with today as your objective,” Baugé said to his sprint rival. “How did you prepare?”
It wasn’t the first time at these Games that the French had questioned the British team’s performances.
After two days of Olympic track racing, when Team GB took three of the first four gold medals on offer, French cycling chief Isabelle Gautheron told Agence France Presse, “I’m puzzled by these performances. They haven’t dominated for the past four years. They were among the best teams in the world along with Australia, Germany and France. Here, they’re crushing everybody. The women (in the team pursuit) are four seconds faster than everybody else… Maybe we should hide ourselves for three years in order to come good the fourth year.”
Kenny took Baugé’s questions in stride.
“It’s not like we do anything different,” Kenny said. “The Olympics is our main goal and as an athlete we always try hard. It just seems to be that when we’re at the Olympics, we still try hard and all the team gets together, which gives you that extra little bit.”
To this Baugé smiled, “If I understand, for the next four years you will relax, and then in Rio (in 2016), you’ll be on top again?”
“The Olympics is the main one for us and the one we get more support for,” Kenny answered. “For me personally, I still want to win world championships, which mean a lot to me as a rider. Going forward, hopefully it will be a battle again for the top spot in the world.”
Baugé was later asked why he was asking these questions of Kenny — particularly with a wry smile on his face.
“Because he beat me,” Baugé said. “I prepared for these Games in my own way, and I was curious to hear how he prepared. First he had to compete with Chris Hoy (to take GB’s sprint spot), which was not easy. Then he had to concentrate on both the sprint and the team sprint.”
Kenny, however, maintained that Great Britain has made the Olympics its top priority, particularly given the 2012 Games are held on home soil. “”When it comes to the Olympics we just make sure we get every little detail right,” he said. “It’s what we did in Beijing, and we’ve done the same here.”