The new Olympic Channel brings you news, highlights, exclusive behind the scenes, live events and original programming, 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.
Tasked with occupying the saddle vacated by British track cycling colossus Chris Hoy, Skinner proved the perfect man for the job as he anchored his country’s team sprint trio to Olympic gold in a thrilling race.
Skinner nailed a superb final lap as Britain beat favourites and world champions New Zealand by the slenderest of margins – 0.102 seconds. Britain have now won the event at the last three Olympics.
Philip Hindes and Jason Kenny, who won with Hoy at London 2012 four years ago, took their turn on the front for the first two laps but it was too close to call as Skinner went solo on the final circuit against New Zealand’s talisman Edwards Dawkins.
Skinner duly delivered over the final 250m as Britain launched another assault on the Olympic track medals after the team won seven of the 10 golds on offer in London.
“It was the best way to do it. We set an Olympic record in the qualifying round, then the Kiwis took it off us again, then we set another Olympic record in the final and beat the world champions, so it’s just incredible,” the 23-year-old Scot Skinner said.
Kenny, who will also be trying to retain his individual sprint title, now has four Olympic gold medals – as many as team-mate Bradley Wiggins, who was part of the team pursuit quartet who set the quickest qualifying time earlier.
Britain have not won a medal of any colour in team sprint at the four world championships since London 2012 as the retired Hoy’s absence hit home, so this victory was an unexpected boost on the opening day of action on the boards.
“The past four years haven’t been easy,” Kenny said. “We struggled in a few other races but finally got it right when it mattered. It’s a good first day in the velodrome. We can’t win worlds to save our lives, but we win the Olympics every time.”
New Zealand, with Sam Webster and Ethan Mitchell flying, were ahead for the first half of the final, but despite Dawkins straining every sinew they could not hang on and their wait for an Olympic gold in the event goes on.
“We can’t really fault what we have done. We did three personal bests today and one was an Olympic record,” said Dawkins, who could not hide his disappointment. “There is not much to turn your nose up about apart from the end result. As a trio we smashed it. We’re gutted it’s not gold.”