WHEN Sir Chris Hoy was at his peak as a professional cyclist, everything was geared to winning. There was first place, then there was nowhere.
But as a young competitor making his way in the sport, he knew he could not simply aim for the top and hope to get there immediately. With a pragmatic approach ideally suited to a sport in which small gains can make a big difference, he would finish sixth in a race – then analyse what he could do to come fifth next time. Then he would come fifth – and decide where the improvement needed to be made so he could move up a place in the following race.
This humble, step-by-step attitude which took the Edinburgh-born cyclist to the very top of his chosen sport is an ideal example for young athletes in any sport to emulate, which made Hoy the perfect choice to be one of the guests of honour at yesterday’s Be Your Personal Best event at St Peter the Apostle High School in Clydebank.
Organised by the Winning Scotland Foundation and sponsored by the Weir Group, the event saw a total of around 30 Scottish international-class athletes taking sessions for 150 pupils aged from ten to 15.
“It’s a great charity and it inspires kids to get the best out of themselves,” Hoy said. “It’s not just about sport. It’s to show kids about achieving their personal best in anything. It could be school work, music, art, anything. Just showing kids they can do amazing things if they work hard.”
Hoy is sure that the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will inspire tens of thousands of young people across Scotland, just as the Games in Edinburgh 28 years ago inspired him.
“I just look back to the effect the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh and the following Olympic Games had on me when I saw them on TV,” he said. “When the Games were in Edinburgh I was only ten and I think I saw a couple of things, but it wasn’t so much that you had to be there in person with a ticket: it was in my city, it was all around me, and you kind of get swept up in that. The Games are fantastic, and it’s an amazing show that lasts a couple of weeks. But it’s not just about the two weeks when we have this amazing spectacle – it’s what happens beyond that to inspire a change in future generations.”
Since retiring from cycling, Hoy has found a passion for motorsport, and is competing in this year’s British GT Championship. Yet despite his aptitude for it, he insisted that, for the time being at least, it would remain an amateur enthusiasm, if a very enjoyable one.
“It’s a very different thing to cycling, which consumed every waking minute of my life, pretty much. Every decision you made – when you’re eating, when you’re resting, what you’re doing in training – was all about the cycling.
“Whereas with the motorsport, it’s very much a hobby. When you’re in the car you take it very seriously and you do the best you can – it’s just nice that you can do it purely for the fun of it, and it’s a part of your life that’s not taking over everything. Well, not at the moment, anyway.
“You’re limited by how much time you can spend in the car in terms of your development and improvement, but even spending two or three hours on the simulator at Silverstone you can see massive gains. I think you’re aware that your percentage of input in the overall result is very small compared to cycling: in motor sport there are so many more variables that you don’t have control over. Maybe only a third or 25 per cent of the result is down to the driver, so you don’t feel as much pressure. You just go out and enjoy it and make the most of it.”
• Winning Scotland Foundation is a charity that is working to create a culture where sport and physical activity are used to help develop young people in Scotland so that they can be successful in life. It aims to ensure that young people have opportunities to learn the life skills they will need for their future. For more information, see www.winningscotlandfoundation.org