Scot Callum Skinner storms home as Brits grab cycling gold

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Scotland’s Callum Skinner raced to glory in the men’s team sprint at the Rio velodrome last night as the Team GB trio defended the title from London 2012.

The Glaswegian 23-year-old was in the anchor role that his fellow Scotsman Sir Chris Hoy made his own and the youngster did the legend proud as he stormed home to snatch victory from the favoured New Zealand outfit.

Britain claimed a shock victory four years ago to win as Hoy claimed the fifth of his six Olympic golds.

And they repeated the trick after finishing a lowly sixth at March’s Track World Championships in London, despite Hoy having since retired.

The issue between Beijing and London was replacing specialist starter Jamie Staff. They did so just in time as Hindes emerged.

Hoy’s retirement also created a void which Kian Emadi and Matt Crampton tried to fill. Skinner was the man Britain’s coaches stuck with, seeing potential in the Scot which has now been realised.

Callum Skinner, right, celebrates with team-mates Jason Kenny, centre and Philip Hindes

Callum Skinner, right, celebrates with team-mates Jason Kenny, centre and Philip Hindes

Hindes, Kenny - champions with Hoy four years ago - and Skinner set an Olympic record in qualifying, but the standard was overtaken by New Zealand in the first round.

And the British trio won the duel for gold. Hindes was narrowly behind after his lap, but Kenny pushed the team in front and Skinner held on.

A change of strategy was a big part of the transformation, with Hindes riding a bigger gear to slow him down and allow Kenny and, in particular, Skinner to keep pace.

Hoy watched on from his position as a BBC pundit and caught the eye of Skinner, Kenny and Hindes when they stepped on to the podium.

Skinner brought the gold home with a blistering anchor lap

Skinner brought the gold home with a blistering anchor lap

The 23-year-old Skinner, from Glasgow, said: “It’s a flattering comparison. I’m just out there to do my best and make a name for myself.

“We set an Olympic record in the final and beat the world champions. It was just incredible. There’s no better way to win it.”

After triumphing at London 2012 alongside Kenny and Hoy, Hindes admitted to deliberately falling to the track following a poor start. He later retracted the comment and there was no method of appeal from Britain’s rivals.

There was no such issue this time around in a supreme victory.

Glasgow's Katie Archibald, left, and Laura Trott are all smiles after the British quartet broke the world record in qualification

Glasgow's Katie Archibald, left, and Laura Trott are all smiles after the British quartet broke the world record in qualification

Hindes said: “It felt like London, with all the GB flags in the stand. We all as a team came together in the last three months.

“We’ve been losing out on so many world titles, so to win the Olympics again is just amazing.”

That is one event, one gold medal for the nation which won seven out of 10 track titles in both Beijing and London.

If that is a barometer of the progress made in the last five months, then a successful five days in the velodrome awaits.

With the form Kenny demonstrated, it is not beyond the realms of possibility to imagine him repeating Hoy’s feat of winning three Olympic golds in one Games.

That would see Kenny - who is exactly 12 years younger than Hoy, who is also born on 23 March (that seemingly sacred date in British sport which is also the birthday of Steve Redgrave, Mo Farah and Roger Bannister) - take his tally to six gold medals and one silver. That would be the same as Hoy’s.

Sir Bradley Wiggins and the GB men's team pursuit team looked strong

Sir Bradley Wiggins and the GB men's team pursuit team looked strong

Kenny next competes in the sprint, which begins on today and plays out over three days.

The 28-year-old from Bolton said: “I’m just enjoying this one for now.

“The team event is always the best. You get to win it with your mates.

“It’s a bit lonely winning on your own to be honest.”

Hindes said: “If he wins another two gold medals, he should get a knighthood.”

It was the day’s only medal event, but there was further good news for Britain.

Sir Bradley Wiggins, Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Owain Doull qualified fastest in the four-man, four-kilometres team pursuit.

They finished in 3:51.943. The world record, set in winning gold at London 2012, is 3:51.659.

The first round and final (10.42pm) take place on today’s second day of action, where Wiggins is sure to be the focus.

He had a dispute with commissaires yesterday ahead of the qualification ride, when officials summoned him to measure his height.

In the corresponding women’s event, which resumes and concludes tomorrow, Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell Shand, Elinor Barker and Katie Archibald of Milngavie advanced in a world record time, clocking 4:13.260.

Team GB have come to rely on its mighty track cycling squad to take ownership of the middle period of an Olympic Games and deliver a host of medals. After truly exceptional showings of utter dominance at Beijing and London, expectations have been played down in the lead-up to Rio.

There have been dramas in the background, not least the resignation of technical director Shane Sutton in April amid sexism and bullying allegations, and the retirements of giant figures like Hoy and Victoria Pendleton. However, on the evidence of the first night’s racing in the velodrome, it looks like GB’s now legendary reputation for peaking at the perfect time could be about to be repeated once again.