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Laura and Jason Kenny were forced to settle for silver medals at the Tokyo Olympics as Great Britain’s crown slipped in the velodrome.
After a decade of British dominance in Olympic track cycling, proof that the rest of the world has caught up came as Laura and the women’s team pursuit squad took silver behind a German team who smashed the world record, while Jason and the men’s team sprint squad were comfortably distanced by Holland.
Both still had a better day than the men’s team pursuit squad, kings of the event since 2008, as they were left with no more to fight for than seventh after a dramatic day which began with the snap retirement of Ed Clancy and ended with Denmark’s Frederick Madsen crashing into Charlie Tanfield.
Laura Kenny had won gold in every Olympic event she had previously entered, but Britain had looked second best to Germany in qualifying on Monday and it had not changed 24 hours later.
— Team GB (@TeamGB) August 3, 2021
The surprise was the eventual margin of victory. The two teams looked relatively closely matched in the early rounds, both breaking the world record in the first round, but Germany utterly dominated the final, stopping the clock in four minutes 04.249 seconds – more than six seconds faster than the Brits.
British celebrations for the world record they set in the first round had been cut short when Katie Archibald crashed into Neah Evans after the finish, both left with scars they insisted had not played a major role in their slower time in the final.
“As an athlete, you want to win everything,” said Laura Kenny, who has medal chances remaining in the Madison and the omnium.
“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…
“(Germany) were phenomenal, you can’t take anything away from them. That is incredible, that’s going to be a record that stands for a long time I think.”
Like his wife, Jason Kenny missed the first of his three chances to move clear of Sir Chris Hoy’s Olympic gold medal tally as Great Britain took silver in the men’s team sprint.
Silver was enough to make Kenny Britain’s most decorated Olympian – his eighth medal tying him with Sir Bradley Wiggins but the colours of them putting him clear – but he, Jack Carlin and Ryan Owens were comfortably beaten by the all-conquering Dutch who set a new Olympic record of 41.369 seconds.
With the British riders struggling to hold one another’s wheels they finished three seconds down on the Dutch, who have not been beaten in a team sprint event since 2017.
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...
Britain had set a time of 41.829 seconds in the first round, but the fight to earn a place in the gold medal race took a toll and they could not match a Dutch squad who had the luxury of a fourth rider to substitute in between rounds.
“We did the same thing we always do,” Jason Kenny said. “We came and emptied the tanks. We did our best ride I think. We pretty much nailed it in the first round and then we rolled the dice and went after the win.
“It didn’t go our way but they were better than us, simple as that. We knew we had to get better in the past few years, we have improved a lot and made a reasonable step but it was not enough.”
Kenny still has two more chances to add to his medal haul in these Games, due to compete in Friday’s individual sprint before Sunday’s keirin, but the challenge of beating the Dutch has clearly got no easier.