Following last night's glorious keirin gold at the velodrome, Britain's greatest Olympian Sir Chris Hoy vowed that London 2012 would be his final Games. However, a fellow competitor has revealed that Sir Chris is considering a challenge to face him at Glasgow's 2014 Commonwealth Games, meaning this isn't the final goodbye to his international career.
When he rode away from the Velodrome after the first round of the team pursuit, Sir Chris pulled up alongside New Zealand cyclist Simon van Velthooven as they pedalled back to the athletes’ village.
They didn’t know it at the time but the two would do battle in the last event of the Olympic action on track — the keirin final — and got talking about Hoy’s future.
“I asked him if he was going to turn up at the Velodrome for the Commonwealth Games and he said he might go for the kilo,” said Van Velthooven, who finished third in last night’s final as Hoy took gold. “So I challenged him to a ride-off at the Commonwealths.”
It’s an intriguing prospect, the idea of Hoy continuing for another two years, and such a goal is understandable when he has proved, at the age of 36, he is still at the top of his sport.
In addition, as a proud Scot, he does not want to let his countrymen down by not competing on home soil in Glasgow in two years’ time. But after so many years of toil to keep at the top of his sport and having become the most successful British Olympian of all time with six gold medals, how can he realistically lift himself any further?
There is nothing more for him to achieve in cycling with six Olympic golds and 11 world titles, and it’s difficult to see how even the most motivated of athletes can lift himself for the rigours of two more seasons of relentless training and preparation.
He has talked about the 2014 Commonwealth Games being a target and even hinted there was a small part of him that could imagine himself lining up in Rio de Janeiro and going for gold at the age of 40. But he also pointed out he was not getting any younger and the sport was not getting any easier.
“People don’t realise how hard it is,” he said, before saying of his future: “I’ll take a good few months off the bike completely. You just don’t know. Sometimes the choice is made for you. The last few years have not been easy.
“It’s harder to get up in the morning when you get to my age. I’d love to do it [the Commonwealth Games] but whether that happens, I don’t know.”
In an ideal world, Hoy would hope to compete in Glasgow. He added: “The dream scenario is to have that as my swansong but it’s a big ask. It’s 35 hours of training a week, sacrifices and time away from home.
“We talk about having a life and I’m looking forward to having one and spending time with my wife and enjoying a drink or two.
“Even going to the supermarket, which is 15 minutes of walking on foot, before I’d think, ‘Do I need to do that’ or do I cut down on time on my feet.”
It only seemed appropriate that it was left to Hoy, in his fifth Games, to steal the limelight in the final race of the entire track cycling in London and go past Sir Steve Redgrave’s haul of five Olympic golds. Redgrave was among those in the stands alongside Princes William and Harry.
The only piece missing from the fairytale ending was the fact that Hoy’s gold was Britain’s 22nd of the Games and he was not the man to surpass the great haul of China, the 19 golds from Beijing of which he won three. For Hoy, it was potentially the perfect ending for what could be his final track outing despite his hopes for Glasgow. He entered two events and won gold in both.
But from the moment of the Opening Ceremony when he walked into the Olympic Stadium as the flag bearer, he already realised that the four years of toil had been worthwhile.
“Even if I didn’t get any medal it was worth the years of hard work just to carry the flag,” he said.
For this belligerent competitor, such an outlook perhaps looked unbelievable but the sentiment was sincere. Should Hoy retire, British cycling will be left in good order in sprinting terms with his successor, Jason Kenny, himself a double gold medallist at these Games, only 24. “Jason can go on to become one of the greatest sprinters of all time,” said Hoy. “He can win in Rio and beyond that.”
Rio is no longer in the mindset of Hoy although Glasgow may still be.