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From time to time, coaches and managers have to make very difficult decisions. It’s partly what they are paid for. But there could not have been a more taxing dilemma than choosing whether Sir Chris Hoy or Jason Kenny should take Great Britain’s only place in the sprint competition.
In the end, British Cycling opted to pick Kenny for the sprint, which denied Hoy the opportunity to defend the three Olympic titles he won in Beijing.
Today Kenny, the 24-year-old from Bolton rewarded the faith the coaches had in him by defeating Grégory Baugé 2-0. It is Kenny’s third Olympic gold medal, after team sprint wins in four years ago and four days ago.
Kenny’s progress to the final was flawless but the big question was whether he could get the better of the imposing Frenchman, who had beaten him 2-0 in their four high-profile meetings so far.
It seemed that however Kenny approached the problem, Baugé had an answer. The result of the 2011 World Championships may have been reversed because Baugé had missed out-of-competition dope tests but the memory of the results on the track remained.
But from the moment Kenny set a new Olympic record for 200 metres in qualifying, he was destined to reach the final. He strolled through to a semi-final meeting with the surprise package of the competition Njisane Nicholas Phillip of Trinidad and although the underdog put up a spirited fight, he never really looked like troubling the British rider.
In the other half of the draw, Baugé looked just as good, although he had it considerably harder in the semi-final. Shane Perkins of Australia was never going to be a pushover, even if he was swept away in straight races.
The final was all about the first race and who would lay down the law.
Kenny refused to be intimidated by Baugé, who is usually an immovable object who can win from the front or launch from behind. The opening stages were tactical. Neither rider wanted to hand the other the initiative.
But when it came to the sprint, Kenny had something that Baugé couldn’t counter, pure speed.
The second race was even more impressive. Kenny took it up from a long way out. He had the huge crowd on their feet roaring him on. Baugé tried to come back at him, got halfway and then stopped. Before the line the Frenchman’s body language showed he had conceded defeat. This was King Kenny’s coronation.
In the bronze medal match, Australia’s Shane Perkins defeated a tiring Phillip 2-0 but it was a fine run for the rider from Trinidad, who has been coached by former Great Britain star Jamie Staff.
The women’s sprint competition reached the quarter-final stages.
Victoria Pendleton and Anna Meares are on course to meet in the final tomorrow evening after they breezed through.
Pendleton was hardly troubled by the Belarussian Olga Panarina, winning 2-0, and Meares looked almost as comfortable as she got past Lyubov Shulika without reply.
In the last four, Pendleton will meet Germany’s Kristina Vogel, who knocked out Simona Krupeckaite of Lithuania, while Meares has a slightly harder contest against Shuang Guo, although the Chinese rider was taken to a decider by Lisandra Guerra Rodriguez of Cuba.
If all goes according to plan, there will be a repeat of the sprint final of four years ago between Pendleton and Meares.
Laura Trott reached the halfway stage in the omnium in the lead, tied on points with Sarah Hammer of the United States.
The 20-year-old, who was part of the gold medal-winning team pursuit squad at the weekend, got off to a brilliant start, winning the 250- metre flying lap one thousandth of a second ahead of the specialist sprinter Clara Sanchez of France.
The points race did not pan out so well for Trott. She was heavily marked as riders kept disappearing round the track to gain laps. Two of her most dangerous rivals – Hammer and Tara Whitten of Canada were among them. Trott finished tenth, best of the riders who did not lap the field, and was bumped down to third place, a point behind the North American pair.
The elimination race is one of Trott’s strengths. She seems to be able to spot gaps other riders cannot see. She brought the house down with a thrilling ride in the London World Cup earlier this year and today she did it again.
A couple of times she looked to be in jeopardy but her racing instinct took over and got her out of trouble until there were just a handful of riders left. In the end it was down to a sprint between Trott and Hammer, which the British rider took with a flourish.
At the end of the day, Trott and Hammer had 12 points, with Trott topping the leaderboard thanks to those wins in the flying lap and the elimination. Those two have a little edge on the field, which will take some closing. Annette Edmondson of Australia is third with 17 points and Whitten is fourth on 18.
Tomorrow there are three events. The 3,000-metre individual pursuit may just favour Hammer but it will be very close. The scratch race, like the points race, will require Trott to be alert and she can be sure to be heavily marked. How she fares in the scratch race will determine whether she’s well in the hunt for a gold medal in the final event, the 500-metre time trial.
Whisper it quietly, but as the track programme reaches its final day there is a chance that Britain’s track cyclists could exceed the incredible number of gold medals they collected in Beijing.
Four years ago, Great Britain won seven out of ten events on the track. Only the men’s and women’s points races and the Madison escaped their grasp. It was an extraordinary strike rate.
There are three events to be decided on Tuesday. Pendleton is already into the semi-finals of the sprint, Trott leads the omnium and Hoy will be confident of reaching the final of the Keirin. Already Britain’s cyclists have a medal total that a good-sized nation would be proud of. Dare they dream of the perfect finish on the track tomorrow?
Men's sprint final
Great Britain KENNY Jason v France BAUGE Gregory
Race one: Jason Kenny
Race two: Jason Kenny
Winner: Jason Kenny
Men's sprint bronze medal ride
Australia PERKINS Shane v Trinidad and Tobago PHILLIP Njisane Nicholas
Race one: Shane Perkins
Race two: Shane Perkins
Winner: Shane Perkins
Men’s sprint semi-finals
Heat 1: Great Britain KENNY Jason v Trinidad and Tobago PHILLIP Njisane Nicholas
Race one: Jason Kenny
Race two: Jason Kenny
Winner: Jason Kenny
Heat 2: France BAUGE Gregory v Australia PERKINS Shane
Race one: Gregory Bauge
Race two: Gregory Bauge
Winner: Gregory Bauge
Women’s sprint quarter-finals
Heat 1: Great Britain PENDLETON Victoria v Belarus PANARINA Olga
Race one: Victoria Pendleton
Race two: Victoria Pendleton
Winner: Victoria Pendleton
Heat 2: Australia MEARES Anna v Ukraine SHULIKA Lyubov
Race one: Anna Meares
Race two: Anna Meares
Winner: Anna Meares
Heat 3: China GUO Shuang v Cuba GUERRA RODRIGUEZ Lisandra
Race one: Lisandra Guerra Rodriguez
Race two: Shaung Guo
Race three: Shaung Guo
Winner: Shaung Guo
Heat 4: Germany VOGEL Kristina v Lithuania KRUPECKAITE Simona
Race one: Kristina Vogel
Race two: Kristina Vogel
Winner: Kristina Vogel
Women's 5th-8th placing race
|5.||Lithuania KRUPECKAITE Simona||11.812|
|6.||Cuba GUERRA RODRIGUEZ Lisandra||-|
|7.||Ukraine SHULIKA Lyubov||-|
|8.||Belarus PANARINA Olga|
Women's omnium - 250m flying lap
|1.||Great Britain TROTT Laura||14.057|
|2.||France SANCHEZ Clara||14.058|
|3.||Australia EDMONDSON Annette||14.261|
|4.||Netherlands WILD Kirsten||14.335|
|5.||United States of America HAMMER Sarah||14.369|
|6.||Spain OLABERRIA DORRONSORO Leire||14.463|
|7.||Canada WHITTEN Tara||14.516|
|8.||Cuba MEJIAS GARCIA Marlies||14.554|
|9.||People's Republic of China HUANG Li||14.571|
|10.||Belgium D'HOORE Jolien||14.594|
|11.||Taipei (Chinese Taipei) HSIAO Mei Yu||14.662|
|12.||Belarus SHARAKOVA Tatsiana||14.701|
|13.||Poland WOJTYRA Malgorzata||14.754|
|14.||Republic of Korea LEE Minhye||14.793|
|15.||Russian Federation ROMANYUTA Evgeniya||14.909|
|16.||New Zealand KIESANOWSKI Joanne||14.924|
|17.||Venezuela GONZALEZ Angie||15.115|
|18.||Colombia CALLE WILLIAMS Maria Luisa||15.559|
Women's omnium - 20km points race
|1.||Poland WOJTYRA Malgorzata||34|
|2.||Belarus SHARAKOVA Tatsiana||28|
|3.||Canada WHITTEN Tara||28|
|4.||Belgium D'HOORE Jolien||25|
|5.||United States of America HAMMER Sarah||25|
|6.||Russian Federation ROMANYUTA Evgeniya||24|
|7.||New Zealand KIESANOWSKI Joanne||22|
|8.||Colombia CALLE WILLIAMS Maria Luisa||22|
|9.||Venezuela GONZALEZ Angie||20|
|10.||Great Britain TROTT Laura||14|
|11.||Australia EDMONDSON Annette||10|
|12.||Cuba MEJIAS GARCIA Marlies||4|
|13.||Spain OLABERRIA DORRONSORO Leire||3|
|14.||Republic of Korea LEE Minhye||3|
|15.||People's Republic of China HUANG Li||2|
|16.||Netherlands WILD Kirsten||2|
|17.||Taipei (Chinese Taipei) HSIAO Mei Yu||2|
|18.||France SANCHEZ Clara||0|
Women's omnium - elimination race
|1.||Great Britain TROTT Laura|
|2.||United States of America HAMMER Sarah|
|3.||Australia EDMONDSON Annette|
|4.||Russian Federation ROMANYUTA Evgeniya|
|5.||Netherlands WILD Kirsten|
|6.||Belgium D'HOORE Jolien|
|7.||New Zealand KIESANOWSKI Joanne|
|8.||Canada WHITTEN Tara|
|9.||Cuba MEJIAS GARCIA Marlies|
|10.||Poland WOJTYRA Malgorzata|
|11.||Republic of Korea LEE Minhye|
|12.||Spain OLABERRIA DORRONSORO Leire|
|13.||France SANCHEZ Clara|
|14.||Colombia CALLE WILLIAMS Maria Luisa|
|15.||Belarus SHARAKOVA Tatsiana|
|16.||People's Republic of China HUANG Li|
|17.||Taipei (Chinese Taipei) HSIAO Mei Yu|
|18.||Venezuela GONZALEZ Angie|
Women's omnium overall standings (after 3 events)
|1.||Great Britain TROTT Laura||12|
|2.||United States of America HAMMER Sarah||12|
|3.||Australia EDMONDSON Annette||17|
|4.||Canada WHITTEN Tara||18|
|5.||Belgium D'HOORE Jolien||20|
|6.||Poland WOJTYRA Malgorzata||24|
|7.||Netherlands WILD Kirsten||25|
|8.||Russian Federation ROMANYUTA Evgeniya||25|
|9.||Cuba MEJIAS GARCIA Marlies||29|
|10.||Belarus SHARAKOVA Tatsiana||29|
|11.||New Zealand KIESANOWSKI Joanne||30|
|12.||Spain OLABERRIA DORRONSORO Leire||31|
|13.||France SANCHEZ Clara||33|
|14.||Republic of Korea LEE Minhye||39|
|15.||People's Republic of China HUANG Li||40|
|16.||Colombia CALLE WILLIAMS Maria Luisa||40|
|17.||Venezuela GONZALEZ Angie||44|
|18.||Taipei (Chinese Taipei) HSIAO Mei Yu||45|