IZU, Japan—With a glorious sense of under-statement Jason Kenny said he had just kept “chipping away” over more than a decade of track cycling domination to become Britain’s most successful Olympian.
That put him one above former track team mate Chris Hoy with whom he previously shared the record.
“It’s special to get a gold medal still at the end of the day,” the modest Kenny told reporters after cementing his place as one of the greatest British athletes of all time.
“I just keep chipping away really, keep turning up and getting stuck in.”
Kenny, who swept the sprints and keirin in Rio said he had questioned whether he still had the power to compete with the likes of flying Dutchman Harrie Lavreysen after relinquishing his team and individual sprint crowns to him this week.
In the kerin final, despite starting from a bad lane, he rolled back the years with a blistering solo attack after three laps that caught his five rivals completely off guard.
He said he had rolled the dice and got lucky.
“I didn’t see myself as one of the favourites really,” said Kenny, whose wife Laura was left with ‘just’ the five Olympic golds after a crash wrecked her chances of winning the omnium for the third Games in succession.
“I wouldn’t have been betting on myself. So in that sense you have to be ready to take your chances. Maybe [the other riders in the race] they weren’t seeing me as favourite as well and that gave me that opportunity.
“It’s been a really tough week, I’ve been disappointed with my speed really, for whatever reason. I was expecting it to be Laura who would win the 12th [gold] for the family.”
Kenny said he arrived in Tokyo thinking it would be his fourth and final Olympics, but after ending it on such a high he is not ruling out trying to enlarge his collection at Paris 2024.
“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,” he said.
“If you had asked me this morning [about Paris] I would have said probably not but I feel pretty good now, I might carry on.”
Kenny’s nine Olympic medals in total is also a British record but he insists he has just been in the “right place at the right time” to benefit from British Cycling’s lavish funds.
And for all his achievements he retains a low-key profile in the public domain—with wife Laura the media draw.
Asked why, he said: “She’s just nicer than me and infinitely better looking! You know that’s the way it is, she’s an inspiring character and lovely obviously, that’s why I married her. I’m a bit boring, so there you go.”
Even Laura said she had doubted whether he could bag the seventh gold on Sunday.
“The amount of people who came up to me afterwards and were like ‘I’d have counted him out of this’—and to be honest, so had I!” she told the BBC.
“I was speaking to him last night and he was like, ‘I just want to go home.’ Then he wins—just typical Jason, that.”
By Martyn Herman