'This is the gold I will remember the most,' claims Team GB's Sir Chris Hoy
Fifth Olympic success has cycling legend on verge of tears as GB win team sprint
Just seconds after Sir Chris Hoy had sped home towards Britain's first gold of the track Olympics last night, for once the DJ got it right and the strains "The Boys Are Back In Town" blasted out across, in what can only have been an unconscious nod to the fact that here in Stratford, four years after Beijing, history was repeating itself in the most wonderful of ways.
For, although the relegation of Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish deprived the British women of that possible honour, just as in China's Olympics, once again Britain's male team sprinters claimed their country's first gold medal on the track. And this time round, the rewards could be even greater: after the setback with the British women, thanks to Hoy, Jason Kenny and Philip Hindes, Great Britain's track team are once more heading in the right direction.
Hoy was almost in tears on the victory podium. "I always thought that Athens [his first gold medal] was my most memorable – until tonight," he said.
"But when I heard the crowd roar as I hit the finishing line and I knew that I'd won it, this is the one I'll remember the most. To be able to give back something to the home fans is something really special."
"The crowd made a huge difference, and the familiarity of it all too by having a home Games, all of that is special."
"For me it's been the greatest Games so far, you step into the Velodrome, the whole atmosphere – it gives you goosebumps. Not many athletes get this chance and even fewer get a chance to win a gold medal." Hoy added. "It's not easy to put into words how happy I am now."
There were other parallels with China 2008: just as in Beijing's team sprint finale, the Britons saw off France for silver, with Germany once again taking bronze. But it was a rockier road to success, as in the qualifying round Hindes, the team's rookie, had a mechanical issue that could have ended in total disaster.
Hindes had barely got out of the saddle before he wobbled wildly and fell, his right arm slamming against the boards, but he was fortunately uninjured. The race judges finally allowed a restart in their match against Germany, Hindes shakily delivering the riders to fourth-best time after the first laps of the three that make up the event.
"I totally lost control and I just crashed," Hindes said without really clarifying up to what point his fall had been intentional in order to get a restart, "but I went through last year with my psychologist on how to handle these things and I handled it all right."
But if the qualifier was partly about damage control for Great Britain following Hindes' shaky start, from there on the GB men's team progress was nothing less than imperious. The ride against Japan, in the next heat, was faultless and, thankfully, incident-free in comparison, inspiring huge cheers from team sprint coach Iain Dyer and high-fives among the British management and mechanics as Hoy, as ever the last of the three-man sprint "chain", drew round the final bend for their first of two world record-breaking rides.
The whole issue of Pendleton and Varnish's relegation could not fail to be brought up with Hoy, who gave them both a sympathetic hug between his rides. "You can't help but be sorry for them, particularly Jess because it's her only competition," he said.
Asked if he thought the relegation was fair, Hoy – who, with the other team sprinters, suffered a suspension after a very similar error in Melbourne – said: "Rules are rules. The only issue I have is when they are applied inconsistently. But I'm sure Vicky will bounce back."
As for their final ride to Britain's first track medal, Hoy said: "Philip is getting better and better all the time, and I was just hanging on there in the second lap to stay behind Jason, and that third lap was just horrible.
"But I knew I had to do the business for the boys, and when I crossed the line and heard the roar I knew it was all over."
For Hoy, 36, this fifth gold medal puts him on an equal par with Sir Steven Redgrave's British record, with three golds taken in Beijing and one in Athens in 2004. However, he was adamant that Redgrave taking them over such a long period of time – five separate Olympics – was deserving of greater respect.
Hoy's precise location among the Olympic greats of cycling and Great Britain is something that only time will reveal. But in the short-term, following the shenanigans over the women's team sprint, such a resounding gold medal triumph was just the result that the track squad was looking for to be able to move forward – in Hoy's case, now to the keirin – with their confidence as high as it was in China four years ago.
Hoy's Olympic haul
London 2012 Time sprint
Beijing 2008 Sprint
Beijing Team sprint
Athens 2004 1km time trial
Sydney 2000 Team sprint
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