Matt Walls claimed Great Britain’s first track cycling gold medal of the Tokyo Olympics with a stunning success in the men’s omnium event.
The 23-year-old from Oldham added to the silver medals won by the women’s team pursuit and men’s team sprint squads in the velodrome to become the first British man to win the multi-discipline event at the Olympics.
On the fourth day of track competition at the Izu Velodrome, Jack Carlin remained in contention for gold in in the individual sprint as he eased through to Friday’s semi-finals in impressive style.
Reigning Olympic champion Jason Kenny, who won silver with Carlin in the team sprint, finished eighth in the sprint, out of the medals.
But the day belonged to Walls who put on a tactical masterclass from start to finish of the four-discipline omnium.
Having won the scratch race, Walls opened the tempo race strongly to take third place and then put on a superb display to take second in the elimination race.
That put Walls into the final event, the points race, with a four-point lead over Jan Willem van Schip of the Netherlands. Walls gained an early lap in the 100-lap, 25km race to take a stranglehold on proceedings, eventually winning gold by 24 points from second place Campbell Stewart of New Zealand.
Walls followed Mark Cavendish, who won silver in the omnium in 2016, and Ed Clancy, bronze medallist in 2012, on the list of British male omnium medals. It was also the eighth medal of the Tokyo Games for the Great Britain Cycling Team.
“It’s pretty unreal, really,” said Walls. “When I was a kid I remember thinking it would be so cool to be there one day. To be here and get a gold medal is unbelievable.
“I felt pretty good but I didn’t really know how I was coming into it. The last track race I did was quite a long time ago. I’d been going well on the road but I didn’t know how that would translate to the track.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. Give it until tonight, I’ll sleep on it and then I’m sure it will sink in.”
After winning through a repechage round, Kenny’s Olympic sprint reign ended in the quarter-final where he was defeated 2-0 by in-form Dutch rider Harry Lavreysen.
But Carlin beat France’s Sebastien Vigier comfortably in reaching his own quarter-final where he faced German veteran Maximilian Levy, a three-time Olympic medalist.
Despite his youth, the 24-year-old Scot rode superbly, showing great tactical know-how to advance to Friday’s semi-final round 2-0.
“It went well,” said Carlin who will race against Lavreysen in the semis. “I’m just taking each ride as it comes but so far, so good. The last five years, the Dutch have been the ones to beat but I’ll give it my all and see what happens.”
In the women’s keirin, Katy Marchant’s competition came to a sad end in the quarter-final when Laurine van Riessen of the Netherlands crashed into her, bringing the pair down and knocking them out of the competition.
“It’s not really my day is it?” said Marchant. “They were fighting a little bit on the inside and I’m not sure whether someone hit into Laurine but she just came down in front of me and I had nowhere to go.
“I’m back tomorrow for the sprint, I’m just a bit battered and bruised but I think I’m alright.”