Jason Kenny and Laura Trott are Britain's golden couple
IF Laura Trott and Jason Kenny's household was a country they would be 12th on the medal table - ahead of Spain, Canada and even hosts Brazil.
Within the space of just over an hour they had secured their place in history, winning second and third golds of the Games respectively, taking their combined career total to staggering ten.
After Trott had become the first British woman to win four Olympic golds, Kenny’s nerve-shredding victory in the men’s Keirin - at a third attempt following two re-starts - was also Great Britain’s 19th of the Games, making this the most successful overseas Olympics in history - with five days still to come.
The 28-year-old Bolton rider drew level with Sir Chris Hoy as Britain’s most successful ever Olympian with six golds and a silver but, while GB have looked unstoppable this week, the sporting gods rarely allow such momentous achievements to come easily.
Disaster appeared to have struck when the first attempt to get the sprint going was stopped by the gun as it was judged that a rider had passed the back wheel of the pace-setting Derny bike before it had left the track in this event that is as quirky as it is breathlessly exciting.
It looked like it could only have been Kenny, who had already won team and individual sprint titles to add to his Olympic tally in Rio, who would be disqualified but, after a tense wait, the judges decided that all six riders should race again.
Incredibly, the same thing happened again, and this time it looked like Joachim Eilers of Germany was the clear transgressor. But, again, no-one was relegated as the final race of the track cycling programme threatened to descend into farce.
Kenny kept his cool to win a stunning sixth Olympic gold after fiancee Trott won omnium gold for her fourth Olympic title. On another fantastic night in the velodrome, Becky James took silver and Katy Marchant bronze as Kristina Vogel of Germany won the sprint.
At the third time of asking in the Keirin no-one could live with Kenny’s blistering pace as he also emulated Hoy’s 2008 achievement of winning three titles at one Olympics. Hoy won the Keirin at London 2012 before retiring. Kenny has two more Games in him and the Scot, who was watching as a pundit for the BBC couldn’t contain his pride in the performance of his erstwhile team and room-mate.
Kenny’s gold was Britain’s 19th of the Rio Olympics - equalling the gold haul from Beijing - and the 49th British medal overall. The 48th medal, won by boxer Josh Buatsi, had minutes earlier taken Team GB past the previous best at an away Games. The half century was then brought up by Jack Laugher’s silver in the men’s 3m springboard diving.
The medal factory delivers again
Following the incredible success of Beijing and London, hopes of the mighty GB track cycling team scaling such heights again had been played down. The Shane Sutton saga, which saw the team’s technical director resign amid allegations of bullying, sexism and discrimination, appeared to have cast a cloud over prospects in Rio too.
We should never have doubted them, however, as they finished with six golds, four silvers and a bronze. Every member of the track team will leave Brazil with a medal.
There has been a trace of sour grapes and sniping from some of the rival teams, who were once again left battered and bewildered by GB’s unerring ability to peak perfectly for an Olympic Games. From the very first couple of hours in the velodrome programme, as British riders and teams laid down electric qualifying times, it was looking good that Team GB’s go-to unit was on course for another brilliant week and so it has proved.
Wheels of love
Trott and Kenny are now British sport’s undisputed golden couple, as grounded and unassuming off the track as they are compelling on it. They plan to marry later this year after Kenny, allegedly, proposed to Trott while they were watching an episode of EastEnders at the house they share near Manchester - where GB cycling is based at the so-called ‘Medal Factory’.
Trott, the 24-year-old from Cheshunt in Hertfordshire was leading the women’s Omnium, a multi-event competition to test the best rider over a series of sprint and endurance races, coming into the decisive points race. She’d been the epitome of consistency - either first or second in each of the five disciplines.
Just 100 giddying laps of the track - punctuated by occasional mad dash sprints - stood between her and another taste of glory.
Unlike Kenny, who once had to settle for a silver when beaten by Hoy in 2008, Trott doesn’t know what it’s like to lose at the Olympics. And she wasn’t going to start now.
Heading into her final event with a near unassailable 24 point lead, she turned it into a procession, staying vigilant to emerge victorious. It was never in doubt and she moved ahead of dressage queen Charlotte Dujardin, who had drawn level with her on three golds the previous day.
“You think of people like Sir Chris Hoy who come here time and time again, and to be able to repeat my success from London is honestly something I can’t even explain right now,” said Trott.
“I’m so happy but I actually can’t believe it and I’m trying really hard not to cry.
“I did not expect to have this at all, and I’m just so happy that it all came together. I honestly can’t thank everyone enough, like the people that you don’t see who have really helped me.
“I really want to thank my coach Paul Manning, he’s the man who has to put up with my strops.”
Trott the watched her fiance’s drama play out before bursting into tears at its denoumenet, a crushing wave of relief that it was all over.
“I was so nervous, he told me he had the legs for it, he was just worried about messing it up,” she said.
“Enjoyable isn’t a word I would use to describe it. It actually makes me more stressed watching Jason because I’m not in control of it.”
Kenny was thrilled to share the moment with Trott. “The thing about being together for me that’s special is that we get to share these moments,” he said.
“I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. She was bawling her eyes out.
“But that was special and it’s nice to share it with the people you love.”
Hoy was knighted after his success in Beijing.
Kenny added: “That would be amazing.”
Trott could also get a letter from Buckingham Palace.
She said: “Things like that come with winning gold medals but I just feel like that eight-year-old that started cycling because she absolutely loved it.
“That blows my mind. I can’t even think about it. I want to enjoy this moment first.”
And while Kenny is eight years younger than Hoy was when he won his sixth gold, the Lancastrian knows he cannot rest on his laurels.
“If by the time I get back from my honeymoon my place has gone on the squad, it might be time to do something else,” he said.
Rather than revel in the achievement, Kenny is looking forward to getting back to the quiet life at home in Cheshire with Trott and their dogs Sprolo and Pringle.
He said: “I love being at the Olympics, but when you’re finished all of a sudden the (athletes’) village seems quite confined. It’s almost like being in prison, so it’s rubbish.
“I’m going home as soon as possible to get back, walk the dogs and try to relax a bit.”
Asked if the achievement was life-changing, Kenny said: “I hope not. I like my life.”
Kenny does not have the biggest profile, but he is pleased to get the recognition from those within the sport.
“I’ve always felt appreciated, particularly inside British Cycling,” he added.
Trott appreciates Kenny, too.
“Jason puts up with so much rubbish on a daily basis from me,” she said. “He knows me inside out, what to say and when to say it.”
Beck’s Great British Bike Off
Welsh star Becky James claimed a second silver medal and immediately thought about her next project: a carrot cake.
James’ superb performance in the women’s sprint was the filling in an amazing layer cake for Team GB on the last day of the track cycling programme.
For James, this was the perfect confection after injuries and illness very nearly brought her cycling career to an end last year. “I couldn’t ask for much more,” the delighted 24-year-old said.
“A year ago I was in a training camp in Valencia and it was my first one back and I was so off the pace.
“If I could have seen myself now back then I would never had expected this. It’s a good thing to look back on.
“I’ve just felt incredible being here and I’m really, really happy with how I raced.”
James unwinds away from the track by baking, with an instagram account to prove it, and her efforts are greatly appreciated by her GB squad mates, although perhaps not always approved of by the squad nutritionists, you suspect.
“Now I really want to make a custard slice but I always make carrot cake, so I’ll probably do that first,” said James with a smile.
But James, first and foremost, is a racer, as she proved in Saturday’s Keirin and again in the sprint, where she was only a photo finish away from forcing Germany’s seven-time world champion Kristina Vogel into a third and final race for gold.
A double world junior champion and a Commonwealth Games medallist at 18, James has been tipped for success for years but fitness worries have held her back.
She just missed the team in London 2012 but was the best sprinter in the world in 2013, only to then suffer a serious knee injury and a minor cancer scare.
sOne of five children, James grew up in Abergavenny and was a talented showjumper until she decided to concentrate on two wheels.
James gave a hint of her return to form with a bronze medal ride at the World Championships in London and there is a slight suspicion that the Olympics have come a few months too early for a rider who is growing in strength and speed.
She was roared on here by her boyfriend, Wales and Lions winger George North, and her parents and grandparents. It was the first time her mum had been on a long-haul flight as she usually looks after Becky’s sister Bethan, who needs 24-hour care after being born with fluid on the brain.
James’ two silvers in Rio helped Team GB to a stunning 11 medals in the velodrome, making this the third Games in a row British riders have utterly dominated the event.
“There is no secret, we just train so hard,” said James.
“I’m sure every other country does too but I know I just knuckled down and worked hard and it’s all paid off. No secrets!”