Chris Hoy reaction: ‘He really touched the nation’

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SIR Chris Hoy has shown Scottish competitors in every sport how to believe they can be winners, not just plucky underdogs, according to Katherine Grainger.

The rower, who like Sir Chris won Olympic gold in London last year, feels the cyclist has taught us to expect success, rather than merely hoping to be somewhere near the podium at a major Games.

“He’s up there with the greats, the biggest names in Scottish sport,” Grainger said of her compatriot. “He really touched the nation with what he achieved. We’ve seen in the last few years a different belief. In Britain, and in particular Scotland, there’s an element of enjoying the underdog status and the trying, whereas he has spun that on its head with an expectation that he’ll be the best in the world.

“It’s a very positive mentality. Why shouldn’t we be leading the world? We shouldn’t we be aiming for that top standard?

“It’s not just about taking part. It’s about delivering absolutely top-level performances. He’s been crucial in that. His name will live on and rightly so. He’s shown people what potential Scottish athletes have.

“He’ll always have an incredibly positive impact on sport. He’s done enough now that his name will live on, and that’s massive credit not just to his success but who he is as a person and an athlete.

“He’s a huge role model and a lovely, lovely person as well as being this incredibly driven, competitive, successful athlete. He’s just one of the good guys.

“As an athlete he’ll be a huge loss to the Scotland Commonwealth Games team. He’ll leave a big Chris-sized hole. He goes into legendary status.”

Thanks to Hoy, Scottish spectators demand more of their competitors, according to Grainger. That means more pressure at events such as next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, but she believes it is a pressure that they should welcome.

“It’s harder for athletes, because suddenly the public do expect. It’s not a case now of ‘Let’s support our athletes’, it’s ‘Let’s see them winning’. Obviously you then have more responsibility to live up to. It’s what you want, to be competing at the top level with people believing in you. That goes beyond sport. I’ve spoken to people since the Olympic Games and there is a different mentality. There’s a bit more pride in the country. There’s always been pride, especially in Scotland, but sometimes it’s without the expectation of success with it. Now it’s national pride because we’re amongst the best in the world.”

Hoy’s final race saw him claim a British record sixth Olympic gold with a stunning ride in the Keirin final on the last day of the London 2012 track programme. British Cycling performance director Dave Brailsford believes it was a fitting conclusion to a stellar career. “Over time you will look back at that last race in London and there’s everything he learned in his entire career,” said Brailsford. “Everything he learned – all the track skills, all the tactical nous, how to summon up that last bit of energy – was put into that one race. The way he held off [Germany’s Maximilian] Levy at the end and didn’t panic was just absolutely incredible. It had a whole nation on the edge of their seats, I’m sure, and then jumping up and down for joy.What a way to drop the curtains on an unbelievable career.”

Brailsford believes Hoy’s personality set him apart, adding: “The very fact you can’t think of any negatives about the guy – either on the bike or off the bike – it’s probably the biggest accolade you can give anybody. That’s a genuine thing. I don’t think you could find anybody who would say anything negative about him. And that is incredibly rare when you think your whole career has been in and around competition.”