After winning gold in the discipline in London and Rio, Jason Kenny’s tenure as Olympic Sprint champion came to an end at the Tokyo Olympic Games on Thursday when he was eliminated at the quarter-final stage.
The Briton was beaten 2-0 by Harrie Lavreyson (Netherlands) in their quarter-final matchup. Kenny had already shown signs of struggling in the opening round, where he qualified in eighth place, and he was later defeated in the 1/8 finals by Denis Dmitriev (Russian Olympic Committee).
Kenny fought his way back into contention by winning the repechage sprint, but he was soundly defeated by Lavreyson in the quarter-finals. He later placed last in the sprint for fifth place, leaving him with a finishing place of eighth overall.
“It was really tough. I am disappointed, but I’ve not got some kind of mad ego that can’t accept I’m not going to be the best in the world every day of the week,” Kenny told Eurosport after his competition ended.
“It’s just one of those things. I’m not where I want to be, I’m not as competitive as I want to be. I just have to accept it. I’ve just been scrapping, trying to get as far as I can in the race in the hope of getting some silverware at the end of it. But it wasn’t to be today.”
Kenny admitted that his chances of defending his title diminished once he was forced to participate in an additional sprint in the repechage.
"I was just taking it one ride at a time but once I [lost] against Dmitriev it was hard, the repechage was absolutely savage and then I was straight back up against the fastest guys in the field,” he said. "It was always going to be tough from then on. It's one of those things. It's just where I am physically at the minute.”
Kenny drew level with Bradley Wiggins as Britain’s most decorated Olympian when he took silver in the Team Sprint earlier this week, his eighth medal in four participations at the Games. The British trio were well beaten by the Netherlands in the Team Sprint final, however, and the Dutch supremacy continues in the individual event. The final four on Friday will feature Lavreyson and Jeffrey Hoogland, while Jack Carlin will be Great Britain’s lone representative.
“They’re making it look easier and easier,” Kenny said of the Dutch sprint squad. “But I’m defending champion and we scrapped and battled for my place in the squad. To qualify this spot, we nicked it off another nation, so we were determined to scrap it all the way to the end, which is really what I did today. That’s where I am.”
Kenny will return to the track on Saturday for the men’s Keirin, where he will seek to defend the title he won in Rio five years ago, when he also claimed gold in both the Team and Individual Sprints. The 33-year-old expressed hope that he would benefit from a day of rest before facing off against Lavreyson, et al, once again.
“Day off tomorrow, so hopefully they’ll knock ten bells out of each other in the sprint final and that will give us half a chance in the Keirin,” said Kenny.
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