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LONDON (AFP) — Beijing silver medalist Jason Kenny coasted into the quarterfinals of the men’s match sprint at the Olympic velodrome Saturday after dominating South African Bernard Esterhuizen.
Joining the Briton were France’s three-time world champion, Gregory Bauge, Australian Shane Perkins, Njisane Phillip of Trinidad, Russia’s Denis Dmitriev and American firefighter Jimmy Watkins.
The biggest loser of the second round, meanwhile, was Germany’s Robert Forstemann. He was expected to sail into the medal rounds, but two days after being unexpectedly called up to his team sprint squad following injury to Stefan Nimke, he was outdone by Phillip.
Forstemann, however, got a second bite of the cherry in a later repechage round, where he countered an early attack by Esterhuizen to win comfortably.
Malaysian Azizulhasni Awang, a specialist keirin rider, also made the quarterfinals thanks to winning his three-man repechage heat.
Kenny, Bauge, Perkins and Forstemann are, on paper at least, the men most likely to fight for the gold medal in track’s most prestigious event, which culminates on Sunday.
However, some solid performances from outsiders suggests an upset or two could be on the cards.
Phillip looked majestic in his rides earlier Saturday, while Watkins proved once again he is not just here to make up the numbers.
A full-time firefighter who has to train on bike rollers during his working hours, the big American disposed of Japan’s Seiichiro Nakagawa in the first round then gave Czech rider Pavel Keleman no chance in their second-round heat.
Bauge, meanwhile, was happy to avoid repechages and save the energy he expects to need on Sunday.
“In the next few days it will be even more intense, so the more energy you can conserve in the first rounds, the better,” said the Frenchman.
“We all know each other. It’s a duel. You just have to avoid making mistakes.”