London 2012 Olympics: Sir Chris Hoy’s gold haul hits five as GB trio excel
AT the end of a colossal night at the Olympic Velodrome, Sir Chris Hoy sat back in his chair and spoke of what had happened out there. Best feeling of his cycling career, he said. Oh yeah, the best.
He’d never known such joy, such pain and such exhaustion. Never heard a crowd roar as loudly, never felt emotion cut so deeply. Athens was good, Beijing was special, but nothing he’d ever experienced in his remarkable and gold-laden life could hold a candle to the few hours he’d just lived through.
Five gold medals now. Five. Level with Sir Steve Redgrave and breathing down the neck of Bradley Wiggins, not yet a knight but still the king of all he sees. These are the pantheon brothers. The immortals. Hoy shed tears when he crossed the finishing line last night, shed more on the podium and may keep shedding them for some time. “I was trying not to cry, but I’m a big baby,” he said.
“It was very emotional on the podium in front of that crowd. It’s hard to describe how I felt.
“You learn to control your emotion in the heat of battle but when it’s over, you can let it go. And now to be mentioned in the same sentence as Sir Steve? Ah, he’s never going to be bettered. Five consecutive Games in such a physically demanding sport as rowing? I can’t explain how much respect I have for him. It’s nice to hear my name mentioned along with his.”
To look at his team-mates, the quite brilliant youngster Philip Hindes, and the ice-cool, Jason Kenny, was to know that the three of them came to the end of an almighty journey here. A bond of brothers on bikes.
“I always felt that the Athens Olympics was my most memorable because it was my first time, my first gold , my lifetime ambition and I thought nothing would ever top it,” said Hoy. “Until tonight. When I crossed the line I didn’t need to look at the scoreboard to know who’d won the race. It took every ounce of effort I had to throw the bike across that line. It’s the most memorable medal of my career. I’ve been to four Games and this is the greatest. I got goosebumps. It was a privilege. Not many people get to compete in front of their home crowd and fewer still get to win a gold medal. It’s really very hard for me to put into words how happy I am.”
Truth be told, this wasn’t supposed to happen. It wasn’t. The feeling in the air was that Team GB might medal, but wouldn’t win; might put it up to the French and the Germans but wouldn’t get close enough to beat them. Not only did they beat them, they did it in heart-stopping style. The men’s sprint is all about the team; three men, three races, one gold. In the searing heat of the Velodrome, Hindes, Kenny and Hoy, the holy trinity, broke the Olympic record in their qualifier, broke the world record in their heat and then broke it again when beating the French in the final. “We knew it was possible,” said Hoy. “But knowing it and delivering it are two different things. All three of us had to be 100% to do that. The boys were incredible. I didn’t want to let them down. But I’ve never suffered like that before.”
Here’s the thing, though. When the session began there wasn’t a hint of any of these heroics to come. Sure, the support for the home team was electrified and only seemed to intensify when the women’s equivalent saw their own dreams of gold crash and burn. And, yes, there was expectation but it was surely tinged with realism. The British team were not favourites to win. That was the starting point of the night, the measure by which we would judge them. Silver, maybe. Bronze, probably. Gold, highly unlikely.
After a few seconds of their qualifier, Germany sharing the track with them, Hindes, racing against the country of his birth, spun and came crashing off his bike. In his dreams, Hindes would have imagined how it was going to be, how perfect, how his team-mates would have looked at him and said, ‘Well done mate, just what we needed’. His backside hitting the track was not in the plan. He went again, but rode cautiously. After the first leg, Britain were fifth in the overall qualification, but then Kenny took over and put them into first, followed by Hoy who put them beyond the Olympic record. The crowd were on their feet - and that’s exactly where they stayed.
Britain qualified for the heat ranked number one, the French just behind in two. Already the dynamic of the evening was set. Britain versus France. Hindes, Kenny and Hoy versus Gregory Bauge, Kevin Sireau and Michael D’Almeida. In the next round the French posted a time that made you go ‘Wow!’; 42.991sec. Then Britain hit them with 42.747sec and broke the world record.
This was Hindes’ time, the moment he lit the place up. Leading off, he was up against Bauge, widely considered the best number one rider in the world, and Hindes was faster. It was a fascinating moment and surely a huge confidence booster to a 19-year-old whose presence in the team was grumbled about by some. A German? He rode like the proudest Brit there has ever been.
The final beckoned and the Velodrome roared. The noise was extraordinary. It was like every man, woman and child in there was on some kind of happy juice, incapable of sitting still. Hindes was thunderous on that opening leg, giving Britain the advantage, then Kenny’s turn and he was blisteringly quick, too. Over to Hoy now, every sinew strained, every muscle hurting. He hurtled away and careered into the record books; 42.6, another world record.
There was delirium now. Hoy’s family raised their Saltire, a small illustration of Scottishness amid a sea of Union Jacks; 2012 and all that. He tried to keep the tears at bay but they came trickling into view as he rode around on the lap of honour, drinking in the applause and appreciating what he’d done here.
He said that words failed him. He couldn’t find the sentences to describe how he felt. And, you know, he didn’t need to. He’d done enough. More than enough.
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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