British Cycling’s performance director Stephen Park challenged his critics to “come and have a go” if they thought they could do any better as his team ended the Tokyo Games on a high.
Jason Kenny’s gold medal in the keirin lifted the number of medals won by Britain’s cyclists across all disciplines at these Games to 12. That equals the number won at both London 2012 and Rio 2016, and is just two short of the high watermark set at Beijing 2008.
It also defied some fairly gloomy predictions in the build-up to Tokyo 2020 that Britain’s cyclists would struggle to get anywhere near the success of the last three Games.
The reasons for the pessimism were many and varied. British Cycling has had a traumatic few years since the departure of technical director Shane Sutton in 2016 amid sexism and bullying allegations.
An independent review of the organisation at the time found a “bullying culture” and made a number of recommendations, which necessitated a root-and-branch cultural overhaul.
Park, who ran the RYA’s Olympic sailing programme, was brought in to oversee those reforms but his style has not been to everyone’s liking. Some refer to him dismissively as a “sailor” who knows nothing about cycling.
There have been some high-profile departures under Park’s watch, including women’s endurance coach Paul Manning and men’s sprint coach Kevin Stewart, both of whom left late last year with Tokyo in sight.
Various coaches have also left to work with rival squads. Mehdi Kordi now coaches the mighty Dutch sprinters, who ended the 13-year reign of Britain’s men’s team sprint in Izu.
Dan Bigham, the former F1 aerodynamicist and rider, went to work with Denmark’s men’s pursuit team after being jettisoned by British Cycling. Bigham has been openly critical of British Cycling’s coaching philosophy and approach.
All in all it was difficult to escape the impression that there was some knife-sharpening going on in the background coming into these Games. But five medals in the mountain bike and the BMX were vindication of the decision to diversify the medal strategy, and gave the team a cushion heading into the track cycling.
And seven more medals in the velodrome ensured British Cycling met their UK Sport target of eight medals and then some.