The Joy of Hoy
AS HE stood on the Olympic podium in the centre of the Laoshan Velodrome, a gold medal around his neck, Chris Hoy blinked quickly three times, and a tear landed on his cheek.
The Edinburgh cyclist closed his eyes again, with one thought that kept recurring: the 0.523 of a second that had just won him and his British team-mates, Jamie Staff and Jason Kenny, the greatest prize in sport.
Minutes earlier, Hoy, a 6ft 2ins, 14-and-a-half stone colossus, had been the personification of brute strength, hurtling around the steep wooden banking of the Laoshan Velodrome, his face fixed in an angry snarl,while his legs propelled his bike at a speed approaching 45mph, and Britain to an Olympic gold medal in the team sprint.
For Hoy, this was his second Olympic gold medal, after the kilometre time trial in Athens in 2004, which he won by a fraction over a tenth of a second.
Hoy's success yesterday puts him on course to become Scotland's greatest ever Olympian. Four Scots have two gold medals, and one – Rodney Pattison, the sailor – has a collection equal to Hoy's so far: two golds and a silver.
Hoy's silver came in Sydney in 2000, also in the team sprint, and here in Beijing he is going for gold in another two events, the keirin today and individual sprint, which starts tomorrow and concludes on Tuesday.
In both disciplines he is world champion. In fact, of the three events he will contest, yesterday's team sprint was arguably the least likely to yield gold.
At 32, Hoy is at the peak of his career, but the journey to such heights has taken a quarter of a century, with Hoy taking his baby steps as a cyclist during the BMX boom of the mid-1980s.
He was seven when, inspired by the BMX chase scene in the film ET, he joined the Edinburgh club Danderhall Wolves, and began racing, rising to the second-ranked BMX racer in Britain.
As a youngster Hoy was, according to George Swanson, who ran the Edinburgh Scotia club, "a ferocious competitor". But Mr Swanson also remembers a young athlete whose response to defeat, or victory, struck him even then as fascinating. He says: "He was different to other young kids, who were hyper if they won, and wouldn't talk to anybody if they lost. If Chris was beaten he would have a discussion with his dad about why. He'd go away, work at what he'd done wrong and come back better."
In his teens Hoy switched to mountain biking, persisting even when it became apparent he was unsuited to the longer events.
Now he spends up to six hours, six days a week, on the track, the road and in the gym. Mornings are spent in the gym, lifting up to 220kg. Afternoons are spent on the bike, sprinting round a velodrome – usually in Manchester – and the day finishes with a road ride.
Incredibly for an Olympic athlete, Hoy writes his own training programme. And he has even admitted to riding out for two or three hours on Christmas Day "because maybe some of my rivals won't be".
His diet is rigorously controlled, with lots of carbohydrates for energy, fish and white meat to provide protein plus lots of fruit and vegetables. He also vowed to drink no alcohol for five months in the run-up to the Games.
His success is even more remarkable given that after the Athens Olympics four years ago, his specialist event, the kilometre, was dropped. At a relatively advanced age he was forced to focus on new events, the individual sprint and keirin.
But yesterday Hoy was modest about his achievements, saying: "Winning as a team is quite emotional, more so than when you win on your own.
"The team is not just these guys (Kenny and Staff], it's also the support staff. There's no question we have the best support team in the world."
He added: "We have been dreaming about winning, but when your dream actually comes to fruition, with the three of us all hitting top form at the same time, it's an incredible feeling."
Back home in Scotland Hoy's dedication was hailed by sporting figures and politicians. Nicola Sturgeon, the deputy first minister, said his success was an inspiration to everyone in Scotland.
Jackie Davidson, the Scottish Cycling chief executive, described his performance as "phenomenal". "To get a gold medal from Chris Hoy on the first day on the track is absolutely inspirational; we are looking forward to his next two events."
Hoy is now the leading light in a British team expected to sweep the board in Beijing. They won nine gold medals at the world championships in Manchester in March, and, with fewer events on the Olympic programme, as many as six are predicted here.
In the Laoshan Velodrome, in front of 6,000 fans, Hoy's first thought after finishing his race was to locate his family, who arrived from Edinburgh on Wednesday. Climbing off his bike, he clambered up the polished wooden boards to meet his mother, Carol, father, David, girlfriend, Sarra, and sister, Carrie, who is six months pregnant.
"We're delighted," said David Hoy. "But we're postponing the celebrations; with Chris going in two more events, we hope there's more to come. The party will be on Tuesday."
• Richard Moore is author of Heroes, Villains and Velodromes: Chris Hoy and Britain's Track Cycling Revolution
More Scots among victory contenders
MORE glory could come in the next two weeks as there are several other Scottish medal prospects.
Lee McConnell, 29, from Glasgow, is competing in the individual 400m but it is in the 4x400m relay where she has a good chance of picking up a medal.
She won the one-lap race at the British trials in Birmingham to qualify for Beijing.
She competed in the Olympic Games in Athens, but failed to make the 400m final and despite a strong home leg finished fourth in the 4x400m relay.
When she was named in the GB squad she said: ''I can concentrate now on preparing for the event. It is down to the planning, training and development – the runs on the wet nights in Coatbridge – since 2001-2. It's six years working hard to get to Beijing."
Rower Katherine Grainger, 32, from Aberdeen, is also dreaming of Olympic glory as she competes in her third Olympics. She won a silver medal at Sydney in the women's 4s and again won silver four years later in the women's 2s. She is Great Britain's most successful Olympic female rower and was awarded an MBE in 2006. She is competing in Beijing in the quadruple scull.
Cycling star Ross Edgar, 25, may have to wait for another Olympics to make his mark after being named as a reserve in Team GB's track cycling team.
At his first Olympics in Athens 2004 he came fifth in the individual men's pursuit. He is a former national junior sprint and kilo champion. Though from Suffolk, his Scottish ancestry meant he represented Scotland at the Commonwealth Games, winning bronze in the team sprint.
Edinburgh velodrome closure plan comes under renewed fire
CHRIS Hoy appealed for facilities for Scottish cycling champions of the future, after City of Edinburgh Council agreed to scrap the velodrome at Meadowbank stadium.
Hoy warned that Scotland needs new facilities before the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.
He has pointed out that the facilities at the Manchester velodrome have helped British athletes such as himself to achieve huge success,
He said: "In Edinburgh we had the Edinburgh Racers (cycling team] based at Meadowbank and, yes, there will be a track in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games, but kids from Edinburgh will find it difficult to get there.
"Unless the facilities are there we cannot build on our sporting success."
The proposed closure of the velodrome at Meadowbank, which was built for the Commonwealth Games in 1970, has limited Scottish facilities and there is concern that young talent will not be able to develop properly.
Hoy, who has said he would like to compete at his fourth Olympics in London in 2012, and then in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, said: "We need more facilities. We only have velodromes in Newport and Manchester and if you live near them it is great but otherwise, you simply cannot do the sport."
Lewis Oliphant, a member of the Velo Ecosse racing team, also criticised the Meadowbank move. He said: "With Scotland's reputation for producing world-class cyclists, this is a massive blow and will ultimately be a destructive move for Scottish cycling.
"A lot of the professionals will go to Manchester, but the younger guys will be the ones who suffer as they need to develop and train regularly. They won't be able to move to Manchester or get through to Glasgow all the time and it will affect young Scottish cyclists."
Mr Oliphant also said that facilities in the UK were far behind those in other countries such as Australia.
He said: "In Australia there are velodromes and great facilities all over the country. Their training facilities and development programmes are phenomenal compared to the ones here. This is an awful move for Scottish cycling."
The city council announced Meadowbank's closure and the redevelopment of the site two years ago.
A new 25 million sports complex would be built on the remainder of the site, where the velodrome – home to the East of Scotland regional track cycling academy – currently stands. But plans for a scaled-down centre do not include a cycling track.
Although a new velodrome is to be built in Glasgow for the 2014 Commonwealth Games it will not be ready until 2010 at the earliest.
Scotland's golden names of Olympic glory
Born in Sri Lanka of Aberdeen parents, he was sent to board at Daniel Stewart's College in Edinburgh.
He joined Warrender Baths Club and went on to win silver medal in the 200m breaststroke at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
He won gold in the 200m breaststroke at the 1976 Olym-pics in Montreal and went on to take a silver in the 100m.
The Edinburgh-born sprinter started out as a triple jumper and long jumper, but went on to concentrate on the sprint events in the early 1970s. In Moscow 1980 he won gold in the 100m and silver in the 200m.
The son of missionary parents for the Church of Scotland, he was born in 1902 in Tianjin, north-east China. He attended Edinburgh University and played rugby for Scotland.
At the 1924 Paris Olympics, he was favourite in the 100 metres but refused to run on a Sunday. Instead, he entered the 400 metres and won gold in a world record time of 47.6 seconds.
His story is told in the film Chariots of Fire.
The sailor, born in Dundee in 1968, won her first Olympic gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and was named female sailor of the year by the International Sailing Federation.
She won gold again in Athens in 2004 in the Keelboat class.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east