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An interview with Chris Hoy, March 22, 2008
As the World Track Championships approach, British Olympic and World Champion Chris Hoy has his plans set for his coming title defences and beyond. Formerly dominant in his pet event, the kilometre time trial, he must now test his Olympic mettle in new events. Cyclingnews' Steve Thomas reports.
It's been a strange and transformational couple of years for Scottish fast man Chris Hoy. After many years he had attained the honour of being the fastest kilometre rider in the world, and had become practically unbeatable in the solitary and punishingly pure discipline - an event which is renown as one of the toughest in bike racing.
Then out of the blue the event was demoted, losing it's Olympic championship status; a devastating blow for the powerful sprinter, who had pinned almost his entire career on this race of truth. "At first I was devastated, it was really demoralising," Hoy admitted. "But, although I think it was still wrong demoting such a classic event; for me it turned out to be a new challenge, forcing me to change disciplines. This took a little while, but has been really refreshing."
Last year Hoy bid farewell to his beloved kilo by winning the world kilo title in Palma de Mallorca and running so close to the all out kilo world record in La Paz. He left the event with the legacy of 4 world titles, an Olympic gold and record and the sea level world record, not half had!
The event still carries World Cup and World Championship status, but no longer shines quite so brightly for Hoy; "It's a shame, it seems to of lost some of it's sparkle. It seems to have become more of an event for up and coming riders stepping towards bigger Olympic goals."
Hoy had his best ever world championships last year with gold medals in the kilo, kierin, and silver in the team sprint. It's a hard act to follow, but this is one rider who has constantly raised the bar all by himself over the years. Can we expect a repeat, or better still at the up-coming championships in Manchester? "I have good form for sure, and everything is on track. In the World Cups I've been going well, and sure I'm keyed up for the worlds – especially with it being on my home track. But without a doubt my focus, and the other GB riders is on Beijing, so although important the championships are more of a stepping stone to the Olympics."
There is no doubt that the British sprinters have become some of the most feared in the world, and the competition for the championship slots is tight, with even Olympic champions like Jason Queally not making the selection cut. Indeed it's a privileged position to be in for a nation, but it makes things difficult for riders. "There are seven riders in the selection string, and only four will make it to ride the team sprint. I think British Cycling do a good job in letting us know when we need to be in good condition for selection as well as for racing, so selection doesn't really effect long term goals. It can put a little pressure on, but sometimes that's good."
Last year it was the French who narrowly defeated the British team sprinters in Mallorca, but Hoy hopes that the team can pull out something special to win this year. "We've worked hard on things. Last year it was 2000th of a second, and I think they will be hard to beat. We will be giving it everything. But the Germans and Australians could also be good. It's very often the case that when a strong nation goes quiet for a while that they are building for a specific target and come out flying."
Following many years of focusing on an individual event, Hoy took to the rough and tumble of the keirin and sprint, and in the keirin he has become almost unbeatable, winning 21 international races in succession. "The kilo is a very controlled environment. There are very few outside influences, and nothing is left to chance," Hoy explained. "But the keirin is very much a lottery in some ways; there are so many factors out of your control. You can never be sure of a result. As for the sprint, I'm treating every race as a learning experience, and experience is so important in this event."
Coming into Olympic year, Hoy has potentially three cracks at the Olympic gold medal; the kierin, team sprint and individual sprint, and is looking to the unpredictable keirin for his best result. "Thankfully I have already qualified for the keirin, which takes off some pressure. It's a bit of a lottery, but I think it's probably my best chance of a gold medal. I hope to make the cut for the team sprint, and think that we also have a good chance here, and the sprint – I'm still learning, but lets hope,"
With more medals in his top drawer than buttons on a "pearly kings" jacket, gold definitely seems to be his favourite colour. "The aim is always to get an Olympic medal – but yeah, to be honest I will not be happy unless I get an Olympic gold medal!"
At 32 years of age, the Beijing Games will be Hoy's third Olympics, and he has gold and silver medals as reward from the previous two Games. It might be a fairly long stretch for Hoy to stay on form 2012 Games are in London, but the draw of a home Olympics is enough to keep him on track. "Yes, that is and has for some time been my aim. I still have the fire, and changing events has kept me fresh. After that who knows, we'll see how it goes, but the 2014 Commonwealth Games are in Scotland too, so who knows when I will choose to stop."
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Images by Steve Thomas
Images by AFP Photo