The 28-year-old Kenny, whose fiancé Laura Trott has three Olympic golds herself after winning the Rio 2016 team pursuit title, was under pressure to prove he is still the best in his country, let alone the world. In the end, his greater experience told as he won both heats with something to spare from Skinner, five years his junior. Russia’s Denis Dmitriev beat Australia’s Matthew Glaetzer in the match-up for bronze.
“It’s really special. It hasn’t really sunk in yet to be honest,” said the five-time gold medallist, who was lined up alongside Skinner to help Great Britain land the team sprint title earlier in the week. “It’s strange. It’s weird. We still have the keirin to go so I probably won’t let it sink in. I always judge my own tactics, so if I was racing myself and could’ve beaten myself then I didn’t really do it right. At the end of the day, I qualified and won the sprint, and it’s a dream really.”
An individual and team sprint title winner at London 2012 and a team sprint champion at Beijing 2008, where he also won individual sprint silver, Kenny has now won as many gold medals as team-mate Sir Bradley Wiggins and legendary British rower Steve Redgrave.
The only compatriot with more is fellow cyclist Chris Hoy – the man who beat him in the individual sprint in Beijing – with six. Kenny will equal that tally if he wins the men’s keirin on 16 August. “It’s a nice club to be part of, the five gold medal club, but like I said, I try to keep my head down for now and concentrate on the keirin and not think about anything else,” he added.
Team GB’s cyclists have been in dominant form at the Rio Olympic Velodrome, winning four of the six events entered, prompting the self-effacing Kenny to comment: “I think the thing with the Olympics is that we have a really good team and our whole programme is based around winning Olympic medals. Everyone is focused on that. I just feel like I’m the last piece of the puzzle. We have a whole team of guys who make sure I am in the best condition and a whole team of guys making sure I’m on the best possible bike, and I really don’t have to think about anything but turning up here and doing my best.”
“Jason 100 percent deserved that. He was better tactically and in the legs,” said silver medallist Skinner, who also revealed what he and his Olympic Village room-mate talked about in the countdown to their duel for individual glory: “I kept telling him how strong I was and he kept telling me how good he felt. You can’t help but laugh while you’re saying it, so it’s all in good fun.”