February 29, 2020 / 4:17 PM / in a month

Cycling: Kenny 'dead happy' despite British sprint struggles

BERLIN (Reuters) - Six-times Olympic champion Jason Kenny says he is “dead happy” with the health of Britain’s men’s sprint squad ahead of the Tokyo Olympics despite a disappointing showing at the world championships this week.

Cycling - 2020 UCI Track Cycling World Championships - Men's Sprint 1/8 Finals - Berlin, Germany - February 29, 2020. Great Britain's Jason Kenny in action with Germany's Stefan Botticher REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Kenny, who won the sprint, team sprint and keirin in Rio four years ago, did not even make it through to the last eight of the individual sprint in Berlin while team mate Jack Carlin was eliminated in round one.

The 31-year-old Kenny, along with Carlin and Ryan Owens were well-beaten by the flying Dutchman in the team sprint final — the silver one of only two medals for powerhouse track nation Britain after three days of competition.

British Cycling has traditionally kept its new kit under wraps at world championships prior to an Olympics. But the squad faces a race against time to close the gap on the Dutch.

Kenny, requiring one more gold medal to move ahead of Chris Hoy as Britain’s most successful Olympian, said he is not about to hit the panic button.

“I can only look at my own squad, I don’t really know what’s going on in the others, you get rumblings obviously but you’d be better asking them about that,” Kenny said of Britain’s lean showing so far at the world championships.

“As far as the sprint squad goes, we are dead happy. We made a big step forward, about half a second in the team sprint in the last six months which is a massive gain.

“We stepped up in the 200 today, we were a bit more in the mix. And in the keirin we were right up in the fight, even if we are not the strongest in there at the minute.”

Kenny can point to the fact that the men’s sprinters did not medal at last year’s world championships.

However, at the last world championships before an Olympics, in London in 2016, Britain topped the medals table with five golds, including Kenny’s victory in the sprint.

While the worlds are seen as a steeping stone to Tokyo, the Dutch have nailed their colours to the mast in impressive fashion with a new world record in the men’s team sprint.

Asked if Britain were losing the fear factor, Kenny modestly said they never had one anyway.

“Everyone’s doing the same thing and trying to maximise what they’ve got,” said Kenny, whose wife Laura crashed heavily in the omnium the previous day. “We are no different.

“Worlds are important to us obviously and we want to do well. We have to assume everyone else will turn up better in six months too. Hopefully, we will be right at the sharp end.”

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond

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