LONDON (AFP) — A day after the Usain Bolt show, the world’s fastest track cycling sprinters will aim to showcase their lightning fast reflexes to a global audience.
And if the formbook is followed, fans at the 6,000-capacity Olympic Velodrome are in for a treat.
Bolton fast man Jason Kenny will shoulder Great Britain’s hopes of adding to its impressive gold tally by trying to defend the coveted men’s Olympic sprint crown won in Beijing by Sir Chris Hoy. The Englishman coasted into the semifinals after winning his first and second round matches 2-0 each time, thus avoiding third leg deciders and repechages.
If, as expected, he gets past Olympic debutant Njisane Phillip of Trinidad, Kenny has a good chance of meeting French rival Grégory Baugé, who faces Australian Shane Perkins in the semifinals.
In terms of an Olympic final in track’s most prestigious event, it couldn’t get any better.
“It would be amazing to get into the final with Jason Kenny,” said Baugé, who has never lost a match to his English rival.
“Kenny will feel the support of the crowd, but in the two or three times we’ve met in recent years he’s never beaten me.”
Adding spice to their potential duel is their shared history.
Baugé is a three-time world champion, but still feels he won four world titles fair and square. Last year, the Parisian of Carribean origin had to hand his 2011 title to Kenny after the UCI sanctioned him for missing random doping controls. So when the pair met in the final of the world championships in April, the atmosphere in the Melbourne velodrome was electric.
Baugé won the first match comfortably, only for Kenny to stun his rival after springing an attack from the start of the three-lap second leg. In the end, Baugé was handed the title after Kenny caused an infringement by coming out of his sprint lane and later called the tactics those of a desperate man.
“When you don’t have any other means I suppose you give it everything you’ve got, and sometimes it works,” said Baugé.
Kenny, however, has come into the Olympics with improved form.
He was fastest man from the field in qualifying, finishing .2 seconds faster than Baugé, and looks to be the only man among the four semifinalists capable of beating the Frenchman.
If successful, it would give Great Britain its fifth gold medal from seven finals at the velodrome.
It is the only gold medal match of Monday’s track program, which also includes the first three races in the women’s omnium and the women’s sprint quarterfinals.