Hoy lost for words to pass on to football team

CHRIS Hoy said yesterday he was flattered by George Burley's suggestion that he might give a motivational speech to Scotland's football squad, but was not sure if he had anything useful to tell them.

The Edinburgh cyclist, who won three gold medals at the Beijing Olympic Games, modestly suggested that some of the coaching and technical staff might have something more relevant to impart to the national team.

"It's a huge honour," Hoy said when told of the comments made by Burley, the Scotland manager, earlier this week. "But it's kind of bizarre to think of yourself in that position, to think you've got anything else to offer. More than individual athletes, I think the way sports are being run, cycling being an example, (is what other sports could learn from].

"For me as an athlete, I've just been given the best opportunities and I'm very fortunate in that respect. Some other sports are not quite so well managed, and I think that reflects in their results. So I would say it's probably more the people that run our sport, (team director] Dave Brailsford and guys like that. They're the guys who really make things happen more than the athletes themselves.

"It's very flattering, but I don't know what I'd be able to offer in terms of advice. But even to be mentioned in terms like that is flattering."

Hoy was speaking at a reception in Edinburgh Castle for him and the other three Scottish Olympic medallists, Katherine Grainger, Ross Edgar and David Florence. As the most successful Scots Olympian ever he was the centre of attention, and admitted he had been stunned by the enthusiastic welcome he had received. "It feels crazy, mental. Such a warm reception. I've never experienced it in my life before. It's almost too much to take in, everything at once, coming from all angles. It's unbelievable, it really is.

"(I had] no idea at all. People were telling me stuff, that things were going crazy back home, but people are always using superlatives.

"They're always going to overemphasise stuff, so I thought 'yeah well, I'll go back and it'll be the same as it was after Athens or Sydney'. But it's a whole different level altogether. I've seen the newspaper articles and stuff since I've been back, and I've been quite blown away by it all, really."

The most visible celebration of Hoy's success is a giant poster on Lothian Road in the capital. Above a photo of the cyclist holding his bike above his head are the words "The king of Scotland". He said he had been told about it, but was still shocked when he actually saw it.

"I drove in last night from Manchester about half-past ten, and I just about drove into the car in front of me. Someone had told me about, and I'd forgotten it was there.

"Then I thought 'hang on a minute, I thought they said it was on the West Approach Road'.

"Then I saw it. It's huge."

His success could bring about a lot of offers to get involved in advertising campaigns, but he insisted he would have to weigh up any such offers carefully. "I still want to focus on my cycling, my training and all that, so it's a question of finding the time to fit opportunities around that. I wouldn't want to curtail my career for the sake of trying to make a quick bob, but at the same time it's trying to be sensible and set yourself up for when your career ends."

Edgar, who won silver behind Hoy in the keirin, summed up in a sentence what many Scottish spectators must have felt while watching the cycling in Beijing. "To be in the same era as Chris is amazing," he said.

Nottingham base is the only option for Florence

DAVID Florence has visited many countries in order to compete in the canoe slalom, but on his return to Scotland yesterday he explained that in an ideal world he would not be quite so well travelled.

Going to China was fine – the 26-year-old won a silver medal there. It is the need to go and live in Nottingham that Florence would rather was not there.

"I've no option but to live and train in Nottingham," he explained before joining his fellow-Scottish medallists on an open-topped-bus procession down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

"We have a slalom course in Perthshire, but it's a natural river, and our sport has moved towards artificial, so we have to be based there."

In fact all three British competitors in the canoe slalom were Scots – Fiona Pennie is from Alexandria, while Campbell Walsh was born in Glasgow but regards Bridge of Allan as home. And all three are based in Nottingham, as that is the site of the national canoe team.

Florence at least would be happy to represent a Scottish team and to be based at a Scottish venue, but he also said he felt at ease competing for Great Britain.

"I'd love to get a chance to compete for Scotland, but I'm happy to represent Team GB," he stated. "I'm sure I speak for all the athletes when I say I feel like I'm part of the British team, but I'm also representing Scotland."

Looking back to his event in Beijing, Florence said the real pressure had come before the start.

"The final run, to be honest, was the easy part. Before the start was the tough part.

"The run went well and when I got to the bottom, I felt the pressure was gone. After four years, I was just canoeing again. I just nodded to myself and thought 'fantastic'.

"China did an amazing job. The venue (for my event] was incredible. It's a lot to live up to for London in 2012."

Asked whether he planned to be there himself four years hence, Florence admitted he had not had time to think about such plans.

"The athletes have just got back to Britain. We aren't even thinking about London, but we keep getting asked about it, what we're going to do, and what we're hoping for.

"That shows just how amazing the response has been."

Grainger reckons her disappointment with third silver typifies an attitude shift in British sport

WHILE pride of place went to Team GB's gold medallists, in many respects it was Katherine Grainger, a silver medallist in rowing, who typified the change of attitude which brought such an improvement in Beijing.

The 32-year-old's evident disappointment at coming second for the third Olympic games was widely viewed as a positive sign of the changed mentality of British competitors, many of whom would once merely be happy to be competing. "I think that's good," Grainger said yesterday of that perception.

"It is slightly the changing face of British sport. For a while it was 'it's great just to be there, make up the numbers, turn up, woohoo!'.

"It's probably healthy that it's swung more to saying 'No, we're not just going to be there, we're going to be there and take the prize home.

"At the end of the day you're going to an event which someone will win.

"As British athletes we're now thinking we're going as the ones who will win. It's a huge step forward."

Having won in the quadruple sculls this year and in 2000, and in the pair in Athens, Grainger has maintained a remarkable level of consistency, and been around for long enough to understand why British results have improved. "Things like funding have made a big difference," she said.

"When I first came into international sport ten years ago, the people on the team didn't have any money, they were all in huge amounts of debt, and they all had to work in full-time jobs as well. That's how it was across most sports.

"The growing-up of Institutes of Sport across the country, funding coming in, these things have made everyone much more professional. And then the mentality changed. We've realised that we've got world-class support behind us, so now we need to deliver on the world-class stage.

"In Atlanta (the 1996 Olympics] we came back with one gold medal. Now there's a whole lot more. There's a feeling that winning is not just something that other countries do or that one or two of us do, that actually all of us should be aiming for and achieving.

"So the mentality changed, we brought in some of the really top coaches, and the athletes ourselves have changed in terms of what we're aiming for. And now we have a force that's the envy of quite a lot of countries around the world."

Grainger herself has yet to decide whether she wants to be part of that force up to London in 2012 and possibly beyond that to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow two years later. "I've not made any commitment at the moment. I think by mid-October we have to have a chat with our team coach to say what our plans are.

"So I've got a few weeks where I can go and think about it, and I'll talk to people I'm very close to and the coach as well.

"I always said I wouldn't make any decisions until after Beijing. I didn't want to go there thinking, 'I've still got London to go' or 'this is my last race'.

"So it was always focus on Beijing and that was it. It's still only two days after Beijing, so it's not like I'm going to have (the required] clarity of thought now. Physically, technically and everything else it's entirely feasible that I carry on. The defining factor will be the mental side – that it's still the burning passion it needs to be to achieve what we're all trying to achieve.

"A home Games is a huge draw. It will transform the country for the better, and very few athletes get the chance to be in a home Olympics.

"I've talked to a few athletes who have retired, and they're dying to come back. So I'm not going to make any rushed decisions."

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