Armchair Pundit

Heroes of 2012: Laura Trott and Jason Kenny

Alex Chick

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This is my favourite photo of 2012 by far.

As you know, it's Laura Trott and Jason Kenny - fresh from winning two Olympic gold medals apiece - indulging in a public display of affection at London 2012.

The pair pitched up at Horse Guards Parade, to drink beer and enjoy a mildly tipsy snog in front of the beach volleyball. All very sweet.

Of course, it's not a conventionally great photograph. The background is boring, the lighting harsh, and then there's that idiot with his head blocking our view of Kenny... wait a minute! I know that guy! Hey Becks, get your head down!

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And that's what makes it so brilliant. Faced with a clear shot of the most famous man in the world (give or take), the paps chose instead to focus on Trott and Kenny, probably the fifth and sixth best-known cyclists in the British team (behind Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton).

What's more, it was front page 'news'. Inconsequential tittle-tattle it might have been, but it was proper Olympic tittle-tattle.

It illustrated perfectly the shift in national psyche during London 2012.

Beckham was meant to be an Olympic figurehead - a role that slipped due to the lack of anything genuinely useful for him to do.

Instead, for a fortnight, it was the gold-toting athletes who became rock stars.

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Jason Kenny celebrates his sprint gold (Reuters)

Trott and Kenny were not just an unlikely Olympic power couple - they represented the present and future of the British cycling team.

Emerging from the shadow of their older and more celebrated team-mates, they provided proof that the system continues to produce athletes of the very highest calibre.

Chosen ahead of Sir Chris Hoy to compete in the individual sprint, Kenny rose to the challenge, defeating the monstrous Frenchman Gregory Bauge in the final at a delirious Velodrome.

At 24, Kenny has three gold medals to his name. He is 12 years to the day younger than Hoy. If he goes on as long as the Scot (a big if), he will have opportunities to add to his tally at the 2016, 2020 and 2024 Games.

Trott's immense power belies her schoolgirl pigtails and giggly demeanour. One of my most treasured Olympic memories was watching her race in the eliminator competition on the way to omnium gold.

Eliminator rules are simple - every two laps, the last rider across the line was knocked out.

Time after time, Trott lagged off the back before producing a late burst to overtake a rival and stay in the competition.

Each time she staved off elimination, the roar grew louder. By the time she edged out Malgorzata Wojytra to win the race, the place was in a state of absolute pandemonium.

It was compelling, joyful, glorious. Trott is just 20.

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Laura Trott pedals to omnium gold (Reuters)

Of course, this brave new world didn't last. Beckham effortlessly reclaimed his territory and is still bombarded with attention any time, anywhere.

Trott and Kenny, meanwhile, could probably lock lips atop the statue of Eros at Piccadilly Circus without attracting much attention.

That's probably how it should be. The Olympics did not bring a permanent change to our society.

They were more like a glorious, fortnight-long dream in which, fleetingly - Olympians became more important than celebrities.

We are running our Heroes of 2012 series all week to celebrate the greatest and most memorable sporting achievements from a remarkable year.

Alex Chick - @alexchick81

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