LONDON (AFP) — Britain clocked its second men’s team sprint world record of the night to successfully defend its Olympic crown in the final against France at a packed London Velodrome Thursday.
Philip Hindes, Jason Kenny and Sir Chris Hoy completed their three-lap effort in a new world mark of 0:42.600, beating the record of 0:42.747 they had set earlier in qualifying.
Germany, whose gold medal plans were upset when it lost finisher Stefan Nimke to injury an hour before the race, beat Australia for the bronze.
Hoy has now pulled level on the gold medals count with British Olympic legend Sir Steve Redgrave, who won five golds and one bronze from the Games’ rowing events. The 36-year-old Scot’s tally of six Olympic medals includes five gold — one in London, three in Beijing and one in Athens in 2004 — and a silver medal from Sydney.
Despite the French team’s determination to avenge its defeat to Britain in Beijing and Britain missing out on a medal at the world championships in April, Hoy said the Brits knew the gold was within reach — if they had a flawless race.
“We knew it was possible. This didn’t just come out of the blue, but we knew if we kept it together, we had to have the best possible race,” said Hoy. “It’s easier said than done. We had an excellent training camp in Newport. We had the full support of the team, and we nailed it.”
Kenny, who will start the individual match sprint instead of Hoy for, was one of the team’s star performers after Hindes
had given the hosts a fast start.
“I was struggling to hold on to his wheel,” admitted Hoy.
The Englishman admitted they had been extra determined after their worlds campaign “went disastrously wrong.”
“We kept it really tight and controlled the emotions,” said Kenny. “I cannot believe how good things went today. There are a few guys here who are absolutely flying; we knew it was going to be a really close competition.
“This was probably the closest sprint competition there’s ever been.”
For Frenchman Grégory Baugé, the three-time world sprint champion, silver was not enough.
“It feels bitter. We’ve come second,” he said. “After our defeat in Beijing we analyzed everything that went wrong and did our very best to improve on it.
“We just came up against a stronger British team.”
German Nimke pulled out just before the race after suffering a recurrence of a back injury from a crash two weeks ago. It sent Germany’s plans into disarray, forcing the squad to change positions with the addition of Robert Forstemann. In the circumstances, the Germans were happy to win the bronze.
“It was a real blow for us; we were happy that we could change positions,” said Maximilian Levy. “In the qualification we just had to get amongst the top eight, that was our main goal. In so little time it’s not possible to make a perfect race.”
Hoy will now have several days’ rest before going for his sixth gold in the men’s keirin, an event in which he is a four-time world and one-time Olympic champion.