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Sir Chris Hoy: Great Britain's Greatest?


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Sir Christopher Andrew Hoy, MBE, has announced his retirement from international cycling. It brings to a close a career that includes six gold medals, eleven world titles, and the complete reinvention of his sport.

Over the course of his time in the saddle, medals for British Cycling have gone from being an exception to an expectation. As Sir Chris moves onto the next chapter of his life as a British icon, it seems appropriate to look back over the career of Britain’s greatest Olympian.

Story has it that Sir Chris’ desire to cycle stemmed from watching ET when he was six years old. Starting in BMX at the age of seven, he was Scottish Champion and ranked second in Britain and fifth in the world by the time he was 14. A gifted sportsman, Hoy also played rugby for his school and rowed for Scotland, winning a silver medal in the coxless pair at the 1993 British Championships.

The Scot’s focus on track cycling really began in 1994 when he joined the City of Edinburgh Racing Club, Britain’s most successful cycling club. Becoming a regular on the international circuit in just two years, and won his first medal at the World Championships in 1999, claiming silver for the Team Sprint. A year later, he participated in his first Olympic Games in Sydney, and received the first of his seven Olympic medals, silver in the Team Sprint.

Gold first came in Manchester, at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Riding for Scotland, Hoy won the 1km time trial. Riding for Great Britain, he picked up two gold medals at the World Championships for the same event, in 2002 and 2004.  At his second Olympics, Sir Chris beat France’s Arnaud Tournant in the kilo to receive his first Olympic gold, smashing the Olympic record in the process.

With four gold medals in the Kilo in two years, Hoy’s reputation as a big, powerful sprinter was already formidable. A turning point, however, came when his favourite event was dropped from the Olympic programme, meaning that the Kilo wouldn’t feature at Beijing in 2008. To continue his Olympic success, Hoy had to master other cycling disciplines, including the tactically difficult Individual Sprint and the unpredictable Keirin.

And master them he did.

Following a slew of world titles, Hoy arrived at the 2008 Olympics and changed his life and British cycling forever. Hoy first took gold in the Team Sprint with teammates Jason Kenny and Jamie Staff. The very next day, he won the Men’s Keirin, finishing ahead of Briton Ross Edgar who took silver. Then on August 19th, Chris Hoy made history when, after breaking the Olympic record in qualifying, he beat Jason Kenny in the final of the Men’s Sprint, collecting his third gold medal of the Games.

Back in Britain, Hoy became a national hero overnight. He was the first Briton in 100 years, since the swimmer Henry Taylor in 1908, to win three golds at a single Games, and the first cyclist in the world to do so. Cycling was suddenly Britain’s national sport, with Hoy’s treble being part of a mammoth 14 medals for British cycling at the games. The profile of the sport was raised to dizzying heights, and Hoy became the BBC Sports Personality of the Year and a Knight of the Realm in the wake of his success.

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