Chris Hoy is backing former Team GB track cycling team-mate Jason Kenny to become Britain’s most decorated Olympian at Tokyo 2020.
The sprinter jointly holds the country’s record for Olympic golds with Hoy at six, and sits one medal behind Bradley Wiggins’ overall total of eight - more than any other athlete in British Games history.
The Kenny family is looking to dominate in Japan, with Laura favourite in most of her events. But Jason’s form has been patchy since Rio 2016, where he claimed three golds, and revealed he had secretly retired after the event in Brazil before going back on that decision in 2017.
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Jason Kenny wins the sprint in Olympic record at Rio 2016
He came away from last year’s World Championships without an individual medal but claimed silver in the team sprint. The Dutch pair of Harrie Lavreysen and Jeffrey Hoogland have emerged as the new force since the last Olympics, but Hoy’s backing Kenny’s experience to level the playing field.
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“Jason has the ability to deal with pressure whereas a lot of other athletes will underperform under pressure,”, Hoy told Eurosport.
It’s not like he can magic form up from nowhere but I think he’s able to cope with the distractions of the Olympic Games. A lot of the younger athletes from countries, who might be favourites, they’ve never been in that position before.
“He has experience like no-one else currently competing in the world of track cycling. Having seen the form he’s in, I think he’ll do a fantastic job in the team sprint, I think the guys will medal.”
Kenny’s form was also questioned heading into Rio, but he came away from the Games with all three golds, capped with a dramatic win in the keirin when he initially faced a long wait to see if he had been disqualified after a false start. But Hoy says the way he dealt with that, typically cool, showed just what sort of character he is.
Jason Kenny powers to men's sprint final win
“Jason’s unique, I’ve never met anyone like him,” he said.
“On the outside, the portrayal is he doesn’t care and he’s not that fussed. But you don’t become a six-time Olympic champion without having that drive and desire from within, he’s incredibly driven and he works incredibly hard, it looks as if it all comes so easily for him.
He’s like a wild cat out in the wilderness, he sits still, conserves energy, and doesn’t do anything until he has to - but when he has to hunt, when he has to make that move, he changes into a different animal entirely.
“He has the big game temperament, he has the ability to produce his best when it counts, and physically he’s an incredibly gifted athlete as well. He’s still training incredibly hard, he still wants to be world champion, but it’s the Olympics he really gets up for.”
Jason and Laura Kenny had a baby, Albie, in August 2017 and Hoy believes it has given both cyclists a different perspective on life. Jason is in a position to make more Olympic history in Tokyo, and with Laura on four career golds at the Games, she is also on course to better her husband’s achievement.
But whereas Laura’s expected to go to Paris 2024, it is widely thought this will be a farewell for Jason, and if it is, Hoy expects him to go out with a bang.
“I definitely think he’ll win a medal of some colour, whether he gets a gold, who knows,” he said.
“I think it’s inevitable he’ll surpass my medal total and I think Laura will go past him. I think it’s going to be an incredible Games for the Kennys as a family.
It’s a wonderful thing to have the most gold medals for your country, and I’ve enjoyed that experience to be the most successful British Olympian, but you know it’s going to go one day and if it’s going to go, you want it to go for a true friend. I’ll be cheering him on.
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