As the famous proverb goes, you reap what you sow. For Sir Chris Hoy, Britain’s most successful Olympian ever, now is the time to reap.
After a stunning career which has spanned four Olympic Games and included six Olympic, 11 world and two Commonwealth titles, the man widely regarded as the greatest track sprinter ever is calling time on his Olympic career.
His emotional victory in the men’s keirin in front of a raucous home crowd at the velodrome on Tuesday evening was the perfect swansong to an illustrious Olympic career, registering Great Britain’s 22nd Gold of the Games in the process and taking their total medal tally past the 47 they achieved in Beijing.
It is an achievement which is made all the more amazing when you consider the poor situation which Team GB found themselves in at Atlanta 1996, where they only managed 15 medals and a solitary Gold in the form of Sir Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent in the coxless pair.
“It took our performance in Atlanta where we only won one Gold medal to really change things in Britain,” said Hoy.
“The powers that be realised that we had to invest more in sport and that was the first little acorn that has grown into this huge oak tree we now have.”
And while funding is a vital step in the process, it is the dedication and performance of the athletes which serve as the roots to grow the tree.
Hoy’s dedication to cycling is one which is almost impossible to comprehend. Cycling is the focal point of his life, one which dominates his existence and forces him to exceed his body’s natural limits on a daily basis.
When he isn’t sticking to his strict diet or training routine, the Scot will be found with his feet up, conserving energy to the point where a trip to the local supermarket is out of the question.
“When you’re racing you’re so focused that you’re not really aware of the pain and it’s almost as if the racing is the easy part,” said Hoy.
“All the training you have to do to get there is the hard bit. Some of the training sessions aren’t too bad, like the ones focused on execution and tactics where I’ll just keep doing standing starts on the first quarter of the track which are more tiring than painful.”
“But there are other sessions you do when you’re left lying on the ground curled up in a ball and vomiting which are really grim, but it’s part of the process and it’s worth it because when you arrive at the race you know there is nothing else you could have done.”
And after sowing so much, the Scot finally had the chance to reap the rewards on Tuesday night after retaining his Olympic keirin crown. But as it turned out, the experience took its toll on Britain’s imperious sprinter.
“It was almost like I was in a daze,” he said. “I was so tired that I went to the BBC, did all my interviews and then all of a sudden I just crashed.”
“I laid down in the corner and fell asleep for about 15 minutes, then I remember being in the car and falling asleep again before I got back about midnight. I went to bed, put my head on the pillow and then I was wide awake and I couldn’t believe it.”
“I was awake til about 2 o’clock in the morning, then I had to be up at six in the morning to do it all over again. I just couldn’t stop thinking about the memories I’d had and the races I’d done over the past few hours so it took a while for me to calm down and finally get some sleep.”
And after catching up on sleep, what’s next for Britain’s greatest Olympian?
“I’m just looking forward to being able to put something other than cycling first and not having to worry about when the next training session is,” he said.
“It will be great to just be able to go for a meal, have a couple of drinks and live a normal life.”
If anyone deserves that, it’s Hoy.
By Jon Waring