- 15 Aug 08, 02:24 PM
How about that for a statement of intent?
Friday was meant to be the warm-up day for the British team at the Laoshan Velodrome.
Super Saturday, with Bradley Wiggins in the pursuit and Chris Hoy in the keirin, was supposed to be the first time we saw the Union flag being hoisted.
Instead, the men's team sprinters - Hoy, Jamie Staff, Jason Kenny - grabbed a gold that no-one expected, trouncing the reigning champions France with a brutal display of flat-out speed that blew their rivals apart.
What we didn't expect was that the dividends would come so early, or that the margins would be so great.
So wonderfully, violently superior was the performance of the British cyclists throughout the afternoon that you almost felt sorry for the other countries.
Wiggins flew round to a new Olympic record in qualifying, faster than his rivals by almost four seconds.
Wendy Houvenaghel and Rebecca Romero went through their heats three seconds faster than their nearest rival, Houvenaghel setting a new lifetime best and British record in the process.
And that was only qualifying.
The pockets of British support dotted around this vast hall barely had the chance to sit down and take a breather from waving their flags.
Maybe Nicole Cooke's presence trackside was a lucky sign. Then again, this squad is so well-drilled and ruthless that they probably don't believe in luck.
After a bad Thursday at the Olympics for Britain - Emms and Robertson going out, Bradley and Billy Joe Saunders failing in the boxing ring - we suddenly had new names to shout about in the streets.
Staff, a former world, European and British BMX champion, only took up track riding in 2002.
The omens hardly suggested an Olympic gold was round the corner. On his very first ride round a velodrome he crashed badly, breaking his collarbone and ripping the skin off his face, arms and legs.
Kenny, the rosy-cheeked 20-year-old from Bolton, is a child of the Peter Keen/Dave Brailsford revolution.
He started riding at the new Manchester velodrome at the age of just 12, was crowned world junior champion in sprint and team sprint six years later and looked as nerveless here in Beijing as a veteran twice his age.
Then there's Hoy, the man who had his favourite event taken away from him, the rider with thighs so freakishly large he admits that other athletes stare at them in the Olympic village.
Hoy first dreamed of taking part at the Olympics when he watched the medal ceremonies from Los Angeles on television as an eight-year-old boy.
It was his phenomenal final lap on Friday that took the British trio home, his parents jumping up and down in the stands as he fizzed past in a blur of muscle and bike.
He now has two golds of his own, with a possible two more to follow in the next few days.
Would you bet against him, when even the stripes on his helmet look fast?
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