Tokyo Olympics: Jack Carlin taking each race as it comes as he continues undefeated run

Watching Jack Carlin in total command on two wheels on Thursday, it seems incomprehensible that his first foray onto the banked track of Bellahouston Park saw him transported to hospital with more bumps and bruises that he would care to remember.

Pitting against experienced German Max Levy in the quarter-finals of the men’s sprint on Thursday, the 23-year-old bobbed and weaved like a prize fighter, the bout fully on his terms, before he swung back with full force and then unleashed his knockout punch to progress undefeated.

“I’m feeling pretty strong, feeling good,” he declared. “It’s gone well so far. I take each race as it comes up so it’s on to tomorrow now and see how it goes.”

Last man standing, as far as British interests are concerned. Jason Kenny, champion in 2012 and 2016 but not here, and likely never again. A decade the senior of his colleague, he had talked down his chances and his actions backed them up.

Forced into the indignity of making the last eight via the repechage route, his era of dominance was brutally terminated ended by world champion Harrie Lavreysen with the Dutchman, on Friday, now standing between Carlin and a spot in the final that offers a medal guaranteed.

A sign of the times, said Kenny, eighth and seemingly destined to retain his tie of six golds with former colleague Chris Hoy. “I don’t expect to be the best in the world all the time,” he signalled. “I gave it my best shot, and I just wasn’t good enough. For whatever reason, I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be physically, and these boys are just better.”

He had already anointed Carlin as his successor. Lavreysen will be favourite in the semis but Paisley’s pedal powerhouse will unleash and let fly. “Especially with Jan van Eijden as my tactics coach,” he declared. “If you ever watch some of the races he used to do, he would say it was kamikaze-esque. He tells me if you ever see an opportunity, take it. You just have to go with your gut.”

He would dearly love to emulate Matt Walls who struck gold in the men’s omnium to end an uncharacteristically barren week for the British Cycling team.

The 23-year-old from Oldham began his assault by winning the scratch race, was subsequently third in the tempo and second in the elimination race – and then sealed victory with a tactical triumph that saw off New Zealand’s Campbell Walsh by 24 points.

Not a bad response from having Covid in March when he was in Belgium and was then compelled to spend two weeks isolating in a hotel room.

“Coming in here, everything was a bit of an unknown,” Walls admitted. “The last track race I did was the European Championships last year, which is a long way away. 

“I came in knowing I was in good shape. I didn’t know how it would translate to the track or my tactics from the track, it’s been a long time since I have raced. I came into the scratch race feeling good and won it. I thought then, ‘I have a chance now as long as I play it smart.’ I knew I had the legs and it worked out.”

Katy Marchant crashed out of the keirin in the quarter-finals when a collision with Laurine van Reissen saw the Dutch rider sent to hospital when they both ended up on the deck. But Marchant, who’ll go in the sprint today, said: “Wrong place wrong time. I just got caught up in it.” Gold went to Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands.

Meanwhile Katie Archibald claims being a trailblazer in the first-ever women’s Olympic madison will be the highlight of her Games.

The 27-year-old took team pursuit silver earlier this week but will link up with Laura Kenny on Friday for their second bid for gold here, and a chance to claim an enticing slice of history.

“To have an aspiration to say ‘we really want to be there, we want to be at the pointy end’ feels just phenomenal to me,” Archibald said. “And the madison really exemplifies everything that there is to love about track cycling, all of the all of the technical, all of the tactical, and all of the physical.

“And it has to be the marrying of these components. It can’t be weighted solely on one of those three. So the special shine of Tokyo is wrapped into that for me.”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992