Hail Britain's superman: Hoy leads the way on Terrific Tuesday
21:57 GMT, 7 August 2012
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It is about the team, it is about the technology, it is about the wheels, the preparation, the numbers, the thousand tiny pieces of analysis and insight that go to make an Olympic champion.
Yet, every now and then, it is really just about the man. One incredible man. One man and his unending thirst for success. One man who simply refuses to be beaten. A six-time Olympic gold medallist called Christopher Andrew Hoy.
The men and women of Great Britain Track Cycling formed a guard of honour around him when his bike finally slowed to a halt at the Velodrome, and they crowded into the podium area when he stood head down, humbled, to receive his medal.
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Hot wheels: Sir Chris Hoy powers round the final bend to go past Maximilian Levy
Emotional: Hoy was tired and tearful after winning his sixth Olympic gold medal
Unbeatable: Sir Chris Hoy crosses the line to win gold in the men's keirin
Tears of Hoy: Sir Chris was emotional after his record-breaking win in the keirin
He wiped away tears, at last able to
show humanity. They clicked away furiously with cameras and smartphones.
No man is a hero to his valet, is the saying, yet that is not true of
Hoy. The rest of the team still lingered, drinking in the scene, as he
showed off his gold medal to photographers and the crowd. His parents,
David and Chris, looked on from behind a red, white and blue banner.
‘Chris Hoy — The Real McHoy’ it said. As if anybody requires proof.
The ride of his life There have been
so many great ones. What is indisputable, however, is that at 36, Hoy
needed every last drop of his phenomenal willpower to get over the line
ahead of Maximilian Levy of Germany. On the last lap, it looked as if he
had been outfoxed, the German taking an aggressive route to nip ahead.
This was where Hoy’s strength of character came to the fore. He held his
nerve, he held his line and refused to be panicked. As if locating a
secret booster button, the power increased. /08/07/article-2185038-146E36B0000005DC-181_634x477.jpg” width=”634″ height=”477″ alt=”Well done: Sir Steve Redgrave congratulated Chris Hoy after the Scot beat his record” class=”blkBorder” />
Well done: Sir Steve Redgrave congratulated Chris Hoy after the Scot beat his record
Hoy would not allow his sixth gold
medal to be diverted to Germany, or anywhere but his home in Salford. He
would not be beaten at his Games, in his backyard. After the
shenanigans that surrounded his fifth medal — with accusations that
Great Britain’s cyclists blatantly played with the rules to win — this
victory could not have been more pure. Here was an athlete sensing and
seizing his moment; here was Britain’s Olympian supreme.
He had us at four, really. After
Beijing in 2008 when plain Chris Hoy became Sir Christopher having won
three gold medals at the same Olympics — the first Briton to do so in
100 years — it was clear he was among the most exceptional sportsmen of
His achievements at these home Games,
however, have established fresh heights. His first gold medal, in the
team sprint, equalled the record held by Sir Steven Redgrave but now Hoy
stands alone. He has not spanned the same number of Games as the rower,
but his influence on his sport, track cycling, is unmatched.
He's done it: Chris Hoy celebrates after crossing the line first in the keirin
Bring it on: Sir Chris Hoy managed to hold off his rivals for a superb win in the keirin
He has grown with it, his success has
driven it on, introduced funding, created the domination we almost take
for granted now. From a single gold medal in 2000 — Hoy won silver in
Sydney — to a pair in 2004, seven in Beijing and the same again in
London, track cycling is the soaring success of British Olympic sport
and Hoy truly the man who inspired a generation.
He took his lead from the bicycle in the film ET,
those who have followed took their lead from an equally alien figure.
Hoy’s drive is nothing recognisable to most of the population.
Yet he gets through to some. On the
night Hoy became Britain’s greatest Olympian, the future was represented
by Laura Trott, whose gold medal in the women’s omnium (cycling’s
equivalent of the heptathlon) is her second at the age of 20. She may be
Hoy’s successor one day, or certainly his female equivalent.
And it was a sad moment, but perhaps
the defeat of Victoria Pendleton in the women’s sprint also served to
emphasise the extent of Hoy’s achievement. Success is not guaranteed,
even for a favoured British rider. Pendleton was hoping to finish her
magnificent career on a high, this being her last race. Instead she had
to settle for silver, victory going to her great rival Anna Meares of
On the edge: Victoria Pendleton and Anna Meares collided in the first leg
Letting bygones be bygones Pendleton embraces Meares on the podium after her final race
Pendleton’s obvious distress made for
a tense atmosphere when Hoy lined up in the final of the men’s keirin.
Trott had taken the roof off the place with a stunning time trial to rip
gold from the hands of Sarah Hammer of the United States. Yet now there
Pendleton upset, what if the hero of
British cycling, the flag bearer of Team GB, could not meet
expectations, either This had been billed as the Veoldrome’s equivalent
of Super Saturday. Such are the incredible standards set in Beijing,
just the one gold medal would constitute a rather tame Tuesday.
Instead, it will go down in history,
for reasons that stretched even farther than the Velodrome, heartbeat of
Britain’s success in these Games.
A dressage gold medal, even before
proceedings opened here, took Britain past their tally of 19 from
Beijing in 2008. Cycling’s success then took the gold standard to 22, a
total second only to the 56 won in 1908.
What a finish: Chris Hoy brought the curtain down on his Olympic career in record-breaking style
Smile for the cameras: Chris Hoy after winning the keirin to claim a sixth Olympic gold medal
In reality, though, the two eras do
not bear comparison. There were 10 medal-winning countries 104 years ago
compared to 63 and counting now, and in some events it was impossible
not to get on the podium. Lacrosse, for instance, had two entrants
(Britain and Canada) as did motorised water sports (Britain and France).
The shooters fired at running deer and a sport called jeu de paume was
played, which we know in Britain as real tennis.
Some things never change, though, in
that Britain dominated the cycling that year, too, with five golds,
three silvers and a bronze. The running total for 2012, including the
medals won on the road, reads eight golds, two silver and two bronze,
with mountain and BMX events to come.
If that is down on 2008 it is only
because the rules have changed to restrict entrants to one from each
country on the individual track events. For this reason, Hoy was
excluded from Monday’s sprint, although it would be disrespectful to
gold medallist Jason Kenny to speculate further.
Let’s face it, six is enough for
anybody, although Hoy will continue to Glasgow in the Commonwealth Games
where the velodrome is named in his honour.
Head and shoulders above the rest: Sir Chris Hoy
After that, who can say He will be 40 by the time of Rio de Janeiro and those pumping legs have to slow down eventually.
‘If you ever see me near a boat
again, shoot me,’ said Redgrave after his fifth gold. Yet Hoy pedals on.
Sometimes, it is just about the man. Only the man.
And what a man.
Sealed with a kiss: Chris Hoy with his SIXTH Olympic gold medal after winning the keirin
Video: Edinburgh and Olympic Park crowds react to Hoy's 6th gold