Jason Kenny's duel for supremacy with Sir Chris Hoy in the individual sprint gained yet more intensity at the World Championships last night when Kenny defeated the reigning Olympic champion in the semi-finals en route to a silver medal.
In the 2008 Olympics Kenny had to settle for finishing behind Hoy in the individual sprint. But in their last three head-to-heads, at the British Nationals last September, the World Cup in February at Manchester, and now here in the Netherlands, Kenny has beaten Hoy each time – and yesterday's triumph, another 2-0 victory, was the most high-profile of them all.
Round one of the semis went to Kenny in relatively straightforward fashion but round two was far more strategic. Kenny started ahead of Hoy from the gun and stayed there, at an agonisingly slow pace for the first lap.
When Hoy lunged and moved ahead, Kenny was more than up to the challenge, outgunning the Scot at the finish line.
Hoy then beat Mickael Bourgain to clinch a well-deserved bronze. "Jason is at the top of the pile right now and it gives me something to aim at, which is a nice position to be in," said Hoy of his defeat to the man who is his room-mate this week.
As for Kenny, the 23-year-old could not defeat the ultra-capable double world champion Gregory Bauge, but his silver medal ahead of Hoy means far more than being Britain's top dog. A change in the rules now limits each country to one competitor in each Olympic track event, meaning only one of the two can go through to London 2012.
"Selection will be down to the last minute to get to the right man," Kenny said. "But I'm moving forward, this is my best result at World Championship level."
On current form at least, GB's 2008 gold medallist in the same discipline for the women, Victoria Pendleton, seems more sure of maintaining her superiority. Pendleton was the only one of three Britons to advance through the quarters yesterday, and then saw off Lyubov Shulika in two narrow sprint victories to move into the semi-finals. Today, Pendleton will get the chance for her sixth World Championship sprint title.