Britain opens track cycling program with another golden ride
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) It doesn't matter who lines up with Jason Kenny in the team sprint at the Olympics.
The result is always the same.
The new-look British squad of Kenny, Philip Hindes and Callum Skinner rallied past New Zealand on the final lap Thursday, winning its third consecutive gold medal in the event.
Kenny is the only one who's been part of them all.
''The team event is always the best. You get to win it with your mates,'' said Kenny, who will try to defend his individual sprint title later in the track cycling program. ''I remember that in Beijing and again in London, and here with a completely fresh team from Beijing.''
Hindes replaced Jamie Staff on the squad four years ago in London. Skinner joined the team this year, replacing the retired Chris Hoy, the most decorated Olympian in British history.
''We knew Callum could get on,'' Hindes said. ''We knew he was on form. He had big shoes to fill but I'm not sure Callum ever felt the pressure. He just did his own ride.''
Britain trailed New Zealand when their second and third riders dropped away, but Skinner was able to make up the difference on the final lap. Britain set a time of 42.440 seconds, lowering the Olympic record that the Kiwis set in the previous round of competition.
Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Ed Dawkins stopped the clock in 42.542 seconds.
''You can't really fault what we did,'' Dawkins said. ''Three personal bests and one Olympic record. I'm gutted that it's not gold but it's what we had in the tank.''
The French team of Gregory Bauge, Francois Pervis and Michael D'Almeida rallied on the final lap to swipe bronze from the Australian team of Nathan Hart, Matt Glaetzer and Patrick Constable.
In team pursuit qualifying, defending gold medalist Britain broke its own world record in the women's event in 4:13.260, slicing over the new wooden track surface in perfect unison.
They lowered the mark of 4:13.683 set by Australia in 2015.
The British team of Katie Archibald, Laura Trott, Elinor Barker and Joanna Rowsell-Shand nearly had its mark wiped out moments later. The United States team on its high-tech, left-side drive bikes were ahead of the pace until the final few laps of the 4,000-meter event.
''I gave everything I had,'' said Chloe Dygert, who along with Sarah Hammer, Jennifer Valente and Kelly Catlin finished in 4:14.286. ''We'll see what we have on Saturday.''
The U.S. will face Australia, which qualified third after its terrifying crash during training on Monday, in the semifinals. The British team will face Canada in the other semifinal.
''It tickled a bit out there, I'm not going to lie,'' said Australia's Melissa Hoskins, who spent a few hours in the hospital after their crash but was part of the qualifying lineup.
The British men nearly matched their record-setting women, falling just short of the mark they set at the London Games. Their time of 3:51.943 was still the fastest in qualifying, a strong opening salvo as Bradley Wiggins tries to become Britain's most decorated Olympian.
He is currently tied with Hoy with seven medals - four gold, a silver and two bronze.
Britain will face New Zealand in the semifinals, while Denmark will face Australia in the other semifinal. The winners Friday advance to race for gold later in the day.
The British are trying to replicate their gold rush from four years ago in London, when they won seven of the 10 track cycling events. And they got off to a solid start Thursday.
Hindes, Kenny and Skinner - who replaced the retired Hoy in the lineup - beat their own Olympic record with a qualifying time of 42.562 seconds. But they were trumped by the trio from New Zealand in the semifinals, watching their record go by the wayside in 42.535.
''We'd been doing quite well in training so we had a rough idea what we could do,'' Kenny said. ''We surpassed that a bit in qualifying, and at that point I thought we could run away with it like we did in London. But New Zealand came back and set the benchmark.''
That set up a showdown in the finals.
New Zealand got off to the faster start, leading when the first rider dropped away after the opening lap. The upstarts still held the smallest of margins - hundredths of seconds - when the second rider dropped away, leaving Skinner and Dawkins to sprint for gold.
Britain's rider won the race to the finish.