Jason Kenny made Olympic history in the Izu Velodrome this morning as he retained his keirin crown and cemented his spot as Team GB’s most decorated Olympian of all time.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed Kenny as the ‘greatest British Olympian ever’.
Earlier in the week, the Farnworth-born cyclist and his team secured silver in the team sprint at the 2020 Summer Olympics, moving him level on medals with Sir Bradley Wiggins (eight) but ahead on the number of golds (seven).
Despite that monumental personal achievement, Kenny seemed somewhat disappointed with silver and his interview was incredibly self-deprecating.
READ MORE: How many medals have Great Britain won? Highlights from the 2020 Olympic Games
“I had nothing in the final, he said. “I was rubbish.”
Jason Kenny (middle) with Jack Carlin and Ryan Owens, after winning silver in the team sprint
If Kenny was disappointed with the the team sprint, he more than made up for it with his stunning performance in the keirin final.
After only qualifying for the quarter finals through the repechage, the odds were stacked against the 33-year-old, but he stunned the world as he rode away from the field to win by a huge gap of 0.763 seconds.
Following the race, he was understandably much more upbeat that on Tuesday (August 3).
“Seven gold medals is really special, when you look back on the ones you have already got it seems pretty easy,” Kenny said.
“Then when you try and get more, you remember how hard it is.
Jason Kenny, immediately after winning the keirin
“It is easy to forget the hard work that goes into it. I have been disappointed this week, I haven’t been as competitive as I wanted to be. But in the keirins you can race hard and ride your luck a little bit.
“Before today I had all but given up, I was counting my career in days and races as opposed to years, but maybe I have bought myself more time now.”
Kenny’s win was predicted his former PE teacher Joe Quinn, when the Manchester Evening News spoke to him earlier this week.
Mr Quinn was head of PE at Mount St Joseph (MSJ) when Kenny attended.
The harsh self-reflection following the team sprint silver didn’t surprise him either.
He said: “He is so brutally honest with himself.
“They did incredibly well to achieve the silver. The Dutch have been absolutely unbelievable at this year’s Olympics but I expected nothing less from him.
“It’s the honesty that’s the true measure of the man but that’s just the way he is.
“At school, he was a very quiet and studious young man.
“He was always very unassuming but steely in his determination to always be the best. He never gave up.
“He dealt with pressure immensely well and he’d be a great poker player!
“He was just a great lad to have around and once you get to know him he has a great, dry sense of humour.”
It was while a pupil at MSJ that Kenny started to take cycling, which was previously a hobby he enjoyed with his dad, much more seriously.
Jason Kenny with wife and five-time gold medalist Laura at the 2016 games in Rio
(Image: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Mr Quinn, who is now deputy head of Loreto High School Chorlton, remembered: “He was always very interested in PE, he loved his sports.
“He represented the school at most activities from football to basketball to badminton – he was a very good badminton player actually.
“His dad was a keen cyclist and he used to go cycling with him.
“An opportunity arose at Mount where we were allowed to take a group of students down to the Velodrome after it had been built. Jason put his name forward, we took him down to see whether he had any interest in turning his hobby into something more.
“The coaches down there must’ve seen some potential in him and he was always really keen so that probably helped.
“He did cycling for his PE GCSE coursework. I’m not sure whether we actually gave him top marks to be honest! I’m sure if he didn’t get top marks that it was very close, though.”
Another one of Kenny’s PE teachers was David Benson.
“He was always a well-mannered young man with a big smile on his face,” Mr Benson said.
“He wasn’t one of the football boys who really stood out but he loved the bleep test and was always determined to go on and on.
“I’m a PE teacher so I’ve always played sport but you could just tell he was one who had sport running through his veins.
“He was always going to fulfil his potential whatever he wanted to do.
“As a role model for the people of Bolton, he’s absolutely fabulous.”
Jason Kenny during the Men’s team sprint at the 2020 Olympics
(Image: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
Following the keirin, Kenny has seven gold medals and two silvers, won in four different Olympic Games – Beijijng 2008, London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.
It was surprising to some that he was overlooked for a knighthood in the 2017 New Year Honours, with him having the same amount of golds as Sir Chris Hoy at that point, as well as more than Sir Bradley Wiggins, Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Ben Ainslie, Sir Mo Farah, and Sir Matthew Pinsent.
Mr Quinn believes that he will be impossible to ignore this time around.
“He deserves all the adulation possible,” he added.
“I’d love to think that he’ll be knighted for what he’s done for the country and British cycling.
“The beauty in what he’s done is that he’s a normal, young lad who’s decided to take an opportunity, done something achieved beyond his dreams.
“It’s a boyhood story and shows that absolutely anybody can achieve what they want to if they take the opportunities that are available to them.
“I’m sure his parents are as proud as punch. I’ve been his PE teacher and I’m incredibly proud to be part of his journey to some extent.”
Jason Kenny celebrates winning gold at Rio 2016
(Image: 2016 Getty Images)
Former English teacher and current headteacher of MSJ, Alex Devany also praised Kenny for his achievements since leaving the school in 2004.
She said: “Everyone at Mount St Joseph is absolutely delighted with Jason’s phenomenal achievement of becoming Great Britain’s most decorated Olympian, equalling Sir Bradley Wiggins, after picking up an eighth medal with silver in the men’s team sprint in Tokyo.
“We are immensely proud of all his achievements and we have thoroughly enjoyed watching him succeed over the years, in Beijing back in 2008, in London, Rio and now Tokyo.
“He is a fantastic ambassador and role model for sport, for cycling and for our MSJ community, inspiring us all with his passion for cycling, his sheer determination, perseverance and resilience. We think he definitely deserves a knighthood.
“As a school we feel honoured that Jason has praised staff at Mount St Joseph for encouraging his passion for the sport and we look forward to being able to congratulate him on his return.”
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