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LONDON (AFP) — Great Britain’s Jason Kenny claimed his first individual gold Monday when he stunned Frenchman Grégory Baugé 2-0 at the Olympic Velodrome to win the coveted Olympic match sprint title.
Australian Shane Perkins beat Trinidad’s Njisane Phillip to the bronze.
Kenny was given the nod over defending champion Sir Chris Hoy to defend Britain’s chances of sprint gold at his home Games after the rules were changed to limit each nation to one rider per event.
Four years after finishing second to Hoy in Beijing, Kenny did not turn his nose up at the opportunity.
After his runner-up place to Baugé at the Melbourne world championships in April, the 24-year-old from Bolton signaled his intent from day one by qualifying fastest in the 200m flying lap.
He then sailed through the rounds to set up a duel with Baugé, the three-time world champion who had been expected to hand France its first title in the event since Daniel Morelon in 1972.
Billed as the “dream” Olympic final by both riders, the only surprise was that Baugé did not level the match to take it to a third leg decider.
“I’m really pleased about that,” said Kenny. “We’re really close (in performance). At the worlds and the year before, he’s been the slightly faster rider.
“Three days ago, I qualified a little bit quicker, and again the race has come down to that.
“I like racing against Baugé, he’s a real pro rider and it always makes for some pretty exciting racing.”
Although Hoy had the chance to defend all three of his sprint, team sprint and keirin titles in London, Kenny was given the green light to represent Britain in the sprint barely a month ago. He admitted his duel with Hoy for the sole sprint spot had spurred him on.
“It was quite the battle to get here with Chris,” said Hoy. “I didn’t want to mess that one up. I was really pleased. I just did it for the team. It’s pretty amazing.”
Kenny’s gold is the fifth for Britain after seven finals at the velodrome.
The hosts also have gold medal hopes in the three finals to be held on the last day of competition Tuesday.