Record-breaker Hoy hoping to inspire future golden years
The triple gold medallist is urging his sport not to rest on its Olympic laurels but to seize its day in the sun, writes Alasdair Fotheringham in Beijing
Wednesday 20 August 2008
In becoming the first Briton in 100 years to take three gold medals in a single Olympics Chris Hoy has rocketed to celebrity status with a capital C. But the Scotsman also wants his sport - so long confined to a minority in Great Britain - to remain firmly in the public eye as well.
Hoy had barely stepped down from the podium before he was arguing that track racing at grass-roots level needed more resources.
Today he continued to insist that cycling had no option but to seize the day - and ensure the huge interest in the UK generated by Beijing does not fade when the curtain goes down on the Games this weekend.
“I really do feel passionately about promoting cycling, it’s a great sport, and an increase in profile can benefit not just myself but my sport.” Hoy claimed.
Quite apart from his victories and the nine other medals taken by the GB track squad, “Thanks to the successes of Mark [Cavendish] on the Tour de France this year as well, cycling on the whole is receiving such a boost now.”
“Hopefully we can get more people into it and it will benefit.”
Hoy is optimistic that the talent to keep the sport flourishing is in place.
“We’ve got so many young riders coming through that cycling could end up becoming not a major sport, but one that people know about, and have opinions about.”
At the same time Hoy is convinced that Olympic success can be used to give bike riding a boost outside the sporting arenas, too: the so-called trickle-down effect.
“People might feel a bit of inspiration to get their bike out the garage, oil the chain and use it for riding to work. It doesn’t have to be about elite performance; it can be about riding your bike for fun.”
Hoy’s argument echos that of the the Great London Assembly when they brought the Tour de France, if not in the league of the Olympics, still the biggest annual sporting event on the planet, to London in 2007.
The GLA’s reasoning was that the Tour could inspire more people to start turning the pedals - and Hoy feels the same about the Olympics.
Hoy himself is currently looking a little further north than the English capital - the thing he is currently most looking forward to is “going back [home] to Edinburgh.”
“I don’t spend enough time up there and I love going back, specially when the Festival is on. It’s just a magical time to be there. I think I’ll catch the last couple of days.”
Any professional cyclist, not just an Olympic champion, lives out of a suitcase - and Hoy says he is keen to see my friends again. Some of them I see only once a year.”
“They’re the things you miss when you’re competing all the time.”
But despite the hat-trick of Olympic gold, Hoy’s approach to the sport remains the same.
Lance Armstrong always used to say that it was fear of losing that motivated him - even though the Texan won a record-breaking seven Tours. Hoy, even so soon after taking Britain’s biggest single Olympic success of a century, has the same kind of feelings.
“You always have self doubt, that’s what drives athletes on.”
“You’re always questioning yourself. Can I do this? If you know you can do something it’s not a challenge and it’s boring.”
To find those challenges, Hoy did not have to look too far from his position on the Olympic podium. 20-year-old Jason Kenny, silver in the individual sprint and gold - also alongside Hoy - in the team event, represents the spearhead of the next generation.
“You can never rest on your laurels, there are always people snapping at your heels – even in your own team.” Hoy pointed out.
“People like Jason Kenny, and the others, are going to keep me on my toes for the next few years.”
“He was only 16 when I won gold in Athens - nobody could have imagined he’d win gold and silver four years later.”
There are younger riders, too, keen to step into Hoy’s shoes.
“I’ve been hearing stories about kids, or 15, 16 year old riders, setting amazing times recently at junior championships at Newport [velodrome].”
“There’s this depth of talent that’s coming through that nobody even knows about, they could be the riders in 2012.”
Before worrying about the future generation, Hoy is determined to savour his triumph at Beijing - but as yet the celebrations have been rather low-key.
“I think I was too tired to really go for it. You’re physically and mentally exhausted, glad to be out of the track and away from the pressure.” Hoy said.
“I’ll be saving that for a couple of nights until I’ve really recovered.”
Media-wise, his last Olympic success in 2004 palls in comparison with this one so far. As Hoy puts it “I haven’t really realised how busy it’s going to be.”
“I was still thinking it’s going to be like after Athens, and whether it finally will be, I don’t know.”
“But in any case, there are a lot of people wanting to get in touch with me.”
Hoy has no intention, in any case, of soaking up all the glory alone. There are, he says, many more individuals who deserve to be recognised.
“It’s not just me who’s won the medals, it’s these people in the background too.”
“I’ve been very fortunate with the British team, to have a family who’ve supported me through all the years, to have a girlfriend who can put up with me being away from home for so long. All these things make a difference.”
“I’ve said it before, it’s not just my medal. I’m just the person who stepped up on the podium.”
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