Sir Chris Hoy sprinted his way to 17 world and Olympic gold medals. Now 39, he tells FS what he has learned in 'been there won that'
It seems like a cliché but the key to my career was that I enjoyed the whole process.
I had this huge appetite for the training and day-to-day elements just as much as I had for winning. There were some days I’d train in the lab with no one but my coach and I would leave feeling as elated as if I’d won a race because I’d be working through a new personal best or taking a significant step towards my long-term goal.
My self-doubt kept pushing me on.
It wasn’t that I was an insecure person, it was more about asking myself the question and challenging myself to answer it. Athletes can be perceived as being completely confident and invincible when it goes well but it doesn’t mean your brain isn’t always questioning if you can make it – you just hide it because you don’t want to let your opponents see a chink in your armour.
I always had a little troupe of people that I trusted.
If they said to me ‘Come on, pull your finger out, you’re not working hard enough,’ then I would listen to them and think, ‘OK, pull your head in and sort it out.’
I’ve seen the Team GB set up go from the very amateurish early days to the professional unit it is now. I remember when I started I’d have to sign out a tracksuit top and return it at the end of the week, and I’d only have two skin suits for the entire season, so if I crashed in one, I’d only have one to ride in. It just made me grateful for everything I had later on, but when I tell younger riders they can’t believe it.
If you start believing all the hype, it’ll drag you down.
It’s an amazing feeling to be the best in the world at something for a snapshot in time, but you have to manage that ego. You have to realise that you might be winning now, but eventually it has to stop and someone will break your records or supersede your achievements.
I enjoyed being the older guy in the team
And having the younger riders come up to me for advice in my later years. I liked the feeling of being valued other than just as someone who is trying to win medals.
When I decided to retire, it wasn’t a choice of ‘do you want to continue?’
It was more like ‘if you continue, you’re not going to be at your best, so do you want to go out on top?’ It was almost as if my body was waving a white flag. I was getting ill and injured, I was doing everything right but I just wasn’t quite there. There were no doubts at all until I went to the press conference and at the very last second I got a bit emotional and thought, ‘wait, do I really want to do this?’ But I think that was down to the music montage they made me sit through.
Sir Chris Hoy is an ambassador for Science in Sport www.scienceinsport.com