LONDON (AFP) — Great Britain’s Jason Kenny credited hard work and close video scrutiny of Grégory Baugé for a key role in his stunning victory over the Frenchman as he claimed a coveted Olympic sprint title Monday.
Kenny, the silver medalist in Beijing behind Sir Chris Hoy, stunned France’s three-time world champion 2-0 after a tight and nervous final to hand Britain its fifth gold from seven finals at the velodrome.
Australian Shane Perkins, who had been ousted by Baugé in the semifinals, went on to dominate Trinidad’s Njisane Phillip to claim the bronze.
Kenny, a 24-year-old from Bolton, in northern England, was given the nod over Hoy to defend Britain’s 2008 Olympic title in track’s most prestigious event after rule changes limited each nation to one rider per event. Having finished runner-up to the Frenchman in the past two world championships, Kenny this time left nothing to chance. While he worked on his own condition and finishing speed, Britain’s track team did the rest.
“We’ve got a really good team behind us that are watching all the videos all the time,” said Kenny. “It’s literally in the last 10-20 minutes before we race, they’ll come up to me with all the information I need to know, having spent a few hours watching loads of videos. And telling me what to do, basically.
“And I go up there and try and do it and hopefully it will be enough to win.”
Kenny signaled his intent from day one by qualifying fastest in the 200m flying lap.
It was no guarantee of victory, but showed he had the finishing speed required against the fastest men on the track.
Kenny said it had given him extra confidence.
“We’ve raced in the world championship final the past two years and on both occasions he’s been the slightly faster, powerful rider, which makes him difficult to beat.
“You’re going up there and you’ve got to do something special, you’ve got to try and catch him out, try and force him into a mistake… which, when you’re racing someone of that quality, is really hard to do.
“We’ve been working really hard the last six months to bridge that gap and just get faster, really. It’s nice to turn up here and see that you’ve bridged that gap.”
The three-time world champion had been expected to hand France its first Olympic title in the event since Daniel Morelon in 1972. In the end both matches were tight, but Kenny’s superior speed was there for all to see.
Having battled compatriot Kevin Sireau to claim France’s sole spot in the sprint and shown his dominance in the event in recent months, Baugé was an unhappy man.
“This is a defeat in a big event, and I’m not happy about it,” said the Frenchman. “I’ve dominated my discipline for the past four years, and I wanted gold. I do not train twice a day for this disappointment.”
As the hosts continue to dominate, vanquished rivals have been left to wonder how Britain, which often underwhelms at the world championships, can lift its game so much for the Olympics.
And Baugé’s frustration after a first major defeat to Kenny spilled over into the press conference, where he asked the Englishman how he had managed to progress so much.
Perkins’ performance, meanwhile, might not have given Australia an elusive first gold from the track, but he was “over the moon to at least come away with a medal.”
“In the semi against Greg it was always going to be a tough ride,” he said. “Tactically I did everything I could out there, I just didn’t have it in the legs. And so to come away with a bronze medal I’m proud to do it for Australia and myself.”