Great Britain won their first gold in track cycling at Tokyo 2020 as Matt Walls delivered a dominant performance in the men’s omnium.
The 23-year-old from Oldham produced a masterful run, winning 153 points. New Zealander Campbell Stewart won silver, while Italy’s Elia Viviani won bronze.
Walls, who won the opening scratch race, entered the tie-breaker race with a slight advantage of just six points, but quickly gained a lap on the pitch to gain control, and could then score his rivals. for the remainder of the 100 turns. an event.
The omnium has changed format for these Games, with four events now grouped together in a grueling afternoon of racing.
Walls, the European champion who tested positive for Covid-19 in March, jointly led alongside Jan Willem Van Schip and Benjamin Thomas after the tempo race, but then outlasted the pair in the elimination race to take a narrow advantage in the decision maker.
And he was quick to take the lead as he won a lap alongside American Gavin Hoover, winning the second sprint in the process.
This gave him a 30-point cushion on the pitch, and from that point on he was able to score defending champions Elia Viviani, Thomas and Stewart to the finish line.
Disappointment for Jason Kenny, who was unable to add to his very impressive collection of Olympic medals in the men’s sprint.
The 33-year-old Scotsman, who has six gold and one silver to his name, lost in the quarterfinals to Dutchman Harrie Lavreysen.
However, there is still British representation in the event with Jack Carlin reserving his spot in the semi-finals.
“Jack is really strong and is in a really good position,” Kenny said. “He’s definitely our best chance. Dutch boys [Lavreysen and Jeffrey Hoogland] are quick, a little faster but Jack has the advantage in the race. He’s a good runner and if he holds up he’s in a very good position …
“From my perspective, I will continue to crop. I’m playing a bit of a supporting role for the first time. If I can eliminate any, it’s a place closer to the podium and that’s how I see it. Keep hammering and grab as many people as I can.
“I struggled a bit and I’m struggling to recover. Obviously, the eighth qualification also puts you in the thick of it.
“So yeah, I felt like every outing was a finale and I made it like it was too. I’m over the moon to make it through the first day and that’s it really. for today, refuel and hope tomorrow turns out well too.
Walls’ gold is Team GB’s second medal on Thursday, with Liam Heath taking bronze in the K1 200m canoe.
The 36-year-old won bronze in the K1 200m at Sea Forest Waterway, his fourth Olympic medal after successes in London 2012 and Rio five years ago.
Heath, who set an Olympic best time of 33.985 seconds in Wednesday’s qualifying, was second in the opening semi-final to prepare for his medal assault.
When asked if Tokyo could be the final chapter, he replied, “This is a question that still needs to be answered and one that needs to be thought about very deeply.
“It’s a decision that needs to be made between me, my family and everyone at home in terms of commitment and support.
“It’s a unique position because there are only three years left (in Paris). It seems to be right around the corner.
“The 200m is unfortunately declining as an Olympic event, but there are new opportunities in both slalom and sprint, with the reintroduction of the K2 500m, which already has a legacy in the sport. This is something I could turn to.
“These decisions have yet to be made. You are in seventh heaven by the minute, but you kind of forget all the hardships and sacrifices that people make and do to get to where you are.
“It will take a few weeks for me to look back, assess and see how happy I am to continue towards a fourth Games. We’ll have to wait and see. “