LONDON (AFP) — Sir Chris Hoy could become Great Britain’s most decorated Olympic champion when he lines up in track cycling’s keirin event Tuesday in a bid to defend his Beijing crown.
Hoy equaled Sir Steve Redgrave’s haul of five gold medals from the Olympics when he anchored the host country’s sprint team to victory on the opening night at the velodrome on Thursday. Afterwards, the 36-year-old Scot played down the extent of his achievement.
“It’s amazing, but it’s just a number really. I still don’t think that anybody can better Steve’s record in terms of what he’s really achieved,” said Hoy. “It’s not just the number, it’s the way he did it and the fact it’s five
Hoy might have to change his tune, however, if he comes away with his second consecutive Olympic gold in the keirin, the chaotic Japanese event that culminates with a six-man final. Hoy’s trademark power and speed have won him many sprint and keirin titles in the past, but his fourth keirin world title at the April world championships in Melbourne was a close affair.
While trying to keep a close eye on teammate Jason Kenny and Frenchman Mickael Bourgain, he had to produce a burst of speed to make up ground in the final lap. Hoy then had to squeeze into the tightest of spaces to edge past New
Zealand’s Simon Van Velthooven before pipping Germany’s Maximilian Levy at the finish line.
“I made the error of waiting too long,” Hoy admitted afterwards.
French keirin great Frederic Magne said Hoy was lucky to have won it at all.
“He sholdn’t have won that race at all,” Magne told AFP.
In the keirin, tactical nous is just as important as power and leg speed and Malaysia’s Azizulhasni Awang is hoping to use a combination of both to go one podium place better than his silver-medal ride in Beijing.
“I feel more ready for this one,” Awang told AFP. “In Beijing I was 19 years old. Now, I have a lot more experience, I’ve trained better and I know how to adapt when situations change in the keirin.”
Also in contention is Levy, a member of the German sprint team that took bronze behind winners Britain and France, and Bourgain. Bourgain’s start to the Olympics was slightly different from that of his teammates.
The UCI requires riders taking part in just one track event to start a race in another discipline. As France had filled up its allocation of Olympic places in the other track events, Bourgain had to take part in another event in order to qualify for the keirin. French team bosses quickly found a spot for him in the road race team.
Last week the Frenchman pulled out after just a few kilometers of the 250km road race, won by Alexander Vinokourov of Kazakhstan. Tour de France champion and Olympic time trial gold medalist Bradley Wiggins was among the critics to call out the rule outlining the minimum event requirement.
Tuesday sees three gold medal finals on the final day of track cycling at the Olympic Velodrome.
Britain has gold medal chances in both, with keirin gold medalist Victoria Pendleton aiming to defend her match sprint title and Olympic team pursuit champion Laura Trott aiming to win her second gold in the women’s omnium.