Sir Chris Hoy previews Team GB’s Rio 2016 cycling challenge
Retired 11-time world champion previews Team GB's prospects ahead of next year's Olympic Games in Rio
Sir Chris Hoy has followed a fairly predictable path in his retirement.
A bit of media work, plenty of endorsements and a range of bikes, available at good stockists everywhere.
He has reportedly turned down Strictly but this week he joined Frank Lampard as a sporting star with his own range of children’s books. Flying Fergus are the tales of a young boy who discovers a old rusty bike has magic powers that transport him to sporting success.
In the build-up to London 2012, it was Hoy’s rivals who wondered whether he and the British team had ‘magic wheels’, though the truth was his six Olympic golds were achieved by an unmatched will to win and 27 inch thighs that powered him like pistons to sporting history.
Hoy’s legacy is a cycling revolution that has changed the British sporting landscape but it has also created an expectation that success is now assured forever.
In Beijing – when Hoy won three medals in a singles Games – Britain won seven from ten golds, a feat that that prompted cycling’s governing body to change the rules for London to prevent such domination.
And yet, three summers ago, Britain again won seven from ten Olympic titles, including two more golds for Hoy.
However, at the recent track cycling World Championships, British cyclists failed to top the podium in a single event – their worst performance in 14 years.
They ranked tenth on the medal table with a haul of just three silver medals, their coach, Shane Sutton, later questioning their hunger to succeed.
Anyone who witnessed Hoy’s final and most thrilling Olympic gold in the men’s keirin will know that timing is his strong point. And it certainly seems like he got out at the right time.
However, the 11-time world champion insists it’s not really as grim as the statistics appear. Some think the team has been missing a leader since his retirement and Hoy believes the return to the track of Sir Bradley Wiggins could be just what’s needed to lift the spirits.
“He’s an iconic leader and other nations look to him as this global cycling megastar,” he said.
“When he’s in the track centre everybody’s focusing on him, so it takes the pressure and spotlight off some of the other riders who don’t particularly enjoy that attention. He’s invaluable for the team as a whole.
“We lost a bit of experience after the Olympics, after Victoria Pendleton and I retired. Success creates its own problems and pressures. Now, if you’re the British Olympic Team going into Rio, you’ve a realistic chance of medalling in maybe 60 per cent of the events.
“But in cycling now, unless it’s a gold medal, it is seen as being a massive failure and you’ve got to manage expectations.
“We do still have realistic chances but I don’t think we’ll have another Beijing or London but I don’t think that’s a massive surprise or disappointment. I still think we have a successful Games in Rio but with less medals than previous Games.
“The World Championships in Paris was disappointing, there’s no way you can spin it to make it sound like a success, as a team it wasn’t.
“However, in individual cases and certain events, progress has been made since the World Championships in Colombia last year.”
Hoy speaks and people listen. This week he was back in London as part of his mentor role in a Sports Aid initiative backed by energy company SSE.
A legacy project of last year’s Commonwealth Games, SSE Next Generation is providing 100 talented hopefuls with funding but, more importantly, invaluable advice and experience as they start out on their sporting careers.
Olympic silver medallist Leon Taylor, who famously mentored Tom Daley, is guiding them while Olympic gold medallist Darren Campbell is advising on nutrition and Judy Murray is helping prepare their parents for what might come ahead.
But it was Hoy that had the teenagers listening in rapt attention and patiently queuing for the obligatory selfie with Britain’s most successful Olympian of all-time.
When Hoy made his British team debut at the 1993 European under-23 Championship he was told to return his tracksuit but times have changed.
“It reminds me of what it was like when I was their age and you’ve got your career right in front of you and the excitement that entails,” he adds.
“There was nothing like this programme when I was starting out, I definitely would have loved to be involved if there was.
“I take my role as a mentor very seriously, it’s an honour, it’s not just about me speaking about myself and my experiences but I enjoy listening to the athletes and hearing about what they’re doing.
“It’s exciting to think there could be half dozen or more of these athletes who could be household names in ten years.”
Who knows. Some might even match Hoy’s sporting and, perhaps, even literary achievements.”
SSE’s Next Generation programme partners with SportsAid to provide financial support and training to the sports stars of the future. Keep up to date with the latest @SSENextGen