London 2012 Olympics: Sir Chris Hoy is Britain’s most successful Olympian
SIR Chris Hoy was crowned Britain’s most successful ever Olympian last night when he anchored the team sprint cyclists to victory in world-record time – the fifth gold medal of his career.
The Scot was in tears on the podium after receiving his medal from the Princess Royal. His gold tally matches that of Sir Steve Redgrave, but Hoy has an additional silver medal to Redgrave’s bronze. Fellow cyclist Bradley Wiggins has seven medals, but only four golds.
The sprint team’s success was the climax of another hugely successful day for Britain at the Games, and a remarkable one for Scottish sport, with Aberdeen canoeist Tim Baillie winning gold in the two-man slalom with partner Etienne Stott, and David Florence, from Edinburgh, picking up silver in the same race with partner Richard Hounslow.
A third British gold medal was won by Peter Wilson in shooting, and silvers went to Gemma Gibbons in judo and the lightweight men’s four rowing team.
Team GB is now on course to smash the medals haul gathered in Beijing four years ago. Five golds and 15 medals in all so far compare with just seven medals, of which two were gold, after six days of the last Games. Britain lies fifth in the medal table, behind China, the United States, South Korea and France.
But it was Hoy who stole the show yesterday, as the 36-year-old fulfilled his dream of winning gold again at his home Games in London, having picked up three in Beijing and his first eight years ago in Athens.
Together with his teammates Jason Kenny and Philip Hindes, the Scot smashed the world record as he crossed the finish line at the Olympic velodrome, sending the 6,000 crowd – including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, and Prime Minister David Cameron – wild in celebration.
For the softly spoken surveyor’s son from Edinburgh, the realisation that he had equalled Redgrave’s record of five golds seemed almost too much. Drenched in sweat at the end of the race, he slumped forward to hug his coaching staff, before coming together to celebrate with Kenny and Hindes.
“It’s quite overwhelming,” he said afterwards. “We knew it was possible, this hasn’t come out the blue, but it’s easier said than done.
“Usually, we get one out of three of us that’s on a really good day and the other two are OK, but this time we tapered perfectly, we nailed it.
“I dug deeper than I’ve ever dug before and I knew the importance of it, I didn’t want to let the boys down.
“I’m immensely proud to be able to do it here in the UK in front of this crowd, who’ve been phenomenal. You can’t overstate what this means to us, in front of a home crowd. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
It was a performance that sparked scenes of celebration across the country. The Prime Minister tweeted: “It was a huge privilege to witness Team GB win the men’s team sprint with a world record. A truly great day for the UK.”
Shona Robison, the Scottish sports minister, said: “Huge congratulations to Sir Chris and his teammates on achieving a gold medal and a new world record today. This is just the icing on the cake of all he has done for sport in Scotland and for Team GB.
“With an astounding number of medals under his belt, Sir Chris is truly living up to his title of Scotland’s greatest ever Olympian, and deserves his place as one of Team GB’s most successful athletes. He has, once again, done Scotland proud and is an inspiration to all of us.”
Hoy will go for glory again on Tuesday in the keirin event, in which he is reigning Olympic champion.
The velodrome was also the setting of heartbreak for Victoria Pendleton, competing in her last Games. Together with Jess Varnish, she missed out on the chance of gold after being relegated by officials for a takeover infringement.
The decision was met with anger from a booing crowd, and Pendleton cut a disconsolate figure after realising she could not make amends. “I’m sorry for disappointing all the people that have come to support us and perhaps not offering the ride that we would have done,” said Pendleton, the 31-year-old Beijing gold medallist. “I’m really sorry.”
Earlier, she and Varnish had set a new world record in the women’s team sprint, which was beaten by China minutes later.
It was, though, not a day ruled by misfortune. For Scotland, in particular, the win in the velodrome was the icing on the cake. Earlier in the day, two Scots had battled it our for canoeing honours at Lea Valley, eventually sharing gold and silver in dramatic circumstances.
Aberdonian Baillie and Stott, from Manchester, set the pace with a fast time as the first to complete the course in the final of the men’s double slalom, and saw their time survive attempts to better it by the next four finalists.
Last to take to the whitewater torrents were Florence and Londoner Hounslow, but although they looked set to snatch gold from their teammates, they lost time in the final section of the race and slipped back to second.
All four British competitors then plunged into the water in celebration before an ecstatic crowd, some shedding a tear or two, before attempting to regain their composure on dry land.
After realising he had helped win Britain’s first ever gold in the slalom, a visibly shocked Baillie, 33, said: “It’s just weird. It doesn’t seem like this could be happening, it’s unreal. It could have been a disaster but now it’s a complete dream.
“To win is mad and for these boys [Florence and Hounslow] to finish second. The run we had, I was hoping it might be good enough for a medal, but you can never tell. It’s such a high quality final. I didn’t expect that.”
He added: “Coming in, we weren’t favourites or anything. The sport is so topsy-turvy, we could have gone out in qualifying. You just never know.”
Baillie’s gold was the culmination of years of training. Raised in a family with a love of the sport, he began paddling in the cold dark waters of the North Sea aged just four, encouraged by his parents.
His uncle, Dr Mike Jones, was a well-known kayak adventurer who explored the Himalayas in his canoe but was killed in Pakistan in 1978 attempting to save a capsized friend.
For Florence, who once lived in the next street to Sir Chris at Wester Coates in Edinburgh, it was a second successive Olympic medal, having also won silver in Beijing.
“Going off last, it wasn’t easy, and we knew the times were going really well but had to focus on our own run,” said the 29-year-old. “To win an Olympic medal, we’re certainly not disappointed.”
Only two minutes after the British triumph at Lea Valley, shortly after 3:30pm, shooter Wilson added to Team GB’s growing gold haul, dropping to his knees after firing the final shot.
Emotions also ran high in the ExCeL Arena, where judoka Gemma Gibbons grappled her way to Olympic silver.
Earlier, Britain’s lightweight men’s four rowing team took home the first medal of the day, winning silver at Eton Dorney, behind South Africa.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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