LONDON (AFP) –
Beijing silver medallist Jason Kenny set out his stall for track cycling’s coveted Olympic sprint gold, upstaging French rival Gregory Bauge with a new Games record in qualifying Saturday.
In the men’s sprint tournament, held over three days, tactics, speed and mental toughness come to the fore as riders fight each other to the line over three laps of the track.
A crucial indicator of form, however, is each rider’s time in the 200m flying lap. Kenny, 24, led the 17-man field in a new Olympic record of 9.73sec, over two tenths of a second ahead of second-placed Bauge (9.952).
Bauge is the three-time world champion and after France’s defeat to Britain in the men’s team sprint on Thursday is more determined than ever to end France’s 40-year wait for a men’s Olympic sprint gold.
“For me, the individual sprint will be a totally different ball game,” he warned Thursday as he struggled to digest France’s defeat to Britain.
However Kenny has laid down a first marker to show that it could prove to be a more difficult task than imagined.
Kenny won silver in Beijing behind British teammate Chris Hoy, a scenario which is impossible this time round following rule changes which mean only one competitor per country is allowed.
Having earned the chance to represent Britain in track’s most prestigious event, he appears to be taking it with both hands.
Australian rival Shane Perkins, however, says Kenny is now a marked man.
“With the Olympic record the pressure is on him now. The form’s there so everyone’s eyes are on him,” said Perkins.
As he continues his recovery from a virus detected just before the men’s team sprint on Thursday, Perkins is hoping to boost Australia’s flagging medals tally after posting a time of 9.987.
“I’m happy with the qualifying. I’m in under ten (seconds), I’m really happy with that,” he added.
“I caught a bit of a virus the night before the team sprint so I had to move out into another building, so my teammates wouldn’t catch it.
“It sort of knocked the edge of me a bit but I’m not complaining. Considering all that I’m pretty happy and my form’s still good.”
The world record for the 200m flying lap, 9.572, is held by France’s Kevin Sireau. The previous Olympic record of 9.815 was set by Hoy in Beijing in 2008.