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Britain’s golden couple Jason and Laura Kenny were forced to settle for silver on a dramatic day at the Izu Velodrome that saw crashes, world records, a huge kit row and the retirement of a cycling great.
Amongst it all, Jason Kenny became the most successful British Olympian of all-time, the second silver of his career together with six golds, taking him clear of former teammate Sir Chris Hoy.
He, Ryan Owens and Jack Carlin had shown their improved form with a new Olympic record in the previous round but were ultimately dominated by Holland when it came to a clash with the world champions in the final, beaten by more than three seconds as Kenny struggled to get on the wheel of Carlin and was left with far too much to do on the final lap.
“We put our heart into the second round to get into the final,” Kenny said. “We had ground to make up, I had nothing in the final, I was rubbish.
“We tried so hard to get there. It’s special personally, every time you come back it gets harder.”
Laura Kenny, meanwhile, had been hoping to become the first British woman to win gold at three consecutive Olympics but will have to wait until the omnium and Madison later in the week as she, Katie Archibald, Neah Evans and Josie Knight were annihilated in the team pursuit final by a German outfit that shattered the world record for the third time in less than 30 hours.
It was the first time in her career that Kenny had ended an Olympic competition without a gold medal around her neck.
“As an athlete, you want to win everything,” she said. “I don’t think it’s any harder for me than it is anyone else taking silver. We set our hearts on gold, we wanted to win gold, so yeah we are going to feel disappointed.
“I glimpsed at my phone and so many people are saying: ‘You should be really proud of silver’, and I am really proud of silver, I just do feel a bit disappointed.”
The 29-year-old had then been trackside to watch husband Jason race and revealed the six-time Olympic champion had been uncharacteristically apprehensive ahead of today’s racing.
“Today was the first time he’s ever told me he was nervous,” she added. “So, that kind of shocked me. But then I saw him go off and break the Olympic record and I thought: ‘He’s not nervous’.
“But he did say to me that he was going to struggle with three rides. The Dutch substituted someone in and they’ve had four men that have been unbelievable for such a long time now, whereas the [British] lads didn’t have a substitute.
“So, Jase had to do all three and they bashed out three in two hours. He always said that third ride was going to be such an ask.”
The morning had begun on a sombre note as Ed Clancy, the most successful team pursuit rider of all-time, announced his retirement from international racing after withdrawing from the team pursuit with a back injury.
Clancy was replaced by reserve rider Charlie Tanfield, but the 24-year-old struggled and soon found himself detached and in the sights of his Danish opponents as they raced for a place in the final. With the Danes about to come sweeping by, their lead rider, Frederik Madsen, appeared not to see the Brit, crashing straight into the back of him and leaving both on the deck.
After half-an-hour of deliberation, it was deemed that Denmark had caught their opposition and therefore advanced to tomorrow’s gold medal match.
Even before that, bad blood had been brewing between the British team and the Danes, in a row over the undervests and shin-tape used by the world champions in qualifying yesterday.
Team GB were among a number of countries to have submitted a complaint overnight and after a meeting on Tuesday morning, it was agreed that the items in question would not be worn for the remainder of the competition.
However, British Cycling’s performance director Stephen Park was unimpressed, questioning why the Danes were not disqualified given the breach.
“I don’t think there is any alternative,” Park said. “The rules are clear. It says you cannot apply something to the skin. They have applied something to the skin. It says in the specific rule that if you break that rule, your option is for being eliminated or disqualified, so they have no option.”