Learning to ride
I didn’t realise it at the time, but watching Steven Spielberg’s film ‘E.T’ at the age of six turned out to be a significant moment in my life. I’d never seen a BMX before, but the way that they could be thrown around, jumped, wheelied and generally thrashed, opened my eyes to how much fun could be had on two wheels and inspired me to give it a go.
My first bike arrived shortly afterwards; not exactly a BMX, but a secondhand kids bike that my parents bought in a jumble sale for £5. My Dad resprayed it black, put BMX stickers on it, new handlebars and grips and I absolutely loved it! Before long I was building ramps in my back garden out of planks of wood and bricks, desperately trying to get some air! I was hooked!
I started racing BMX at the age of 7 and loved everything about it; the speed, the adrenaline, the competition, discovering new places and meeting new friends. I travelled all over the country to race meetings with my Dad and looking back now it was a special time. I did OK, but certainly wasn’t one of those kids you would pick out at a young age expecting a future champion. What I did learn though was the correlation between hard work and success; the more I practiced the better I got, and every win was hard-earned. After BMX, I raced MTBs, road cyclo-cross, and time trials with little success, before discovering the velodrome…
1 x Olympic Gold Medal
I’d dreamed of becoming an Olympic Champion all my life, but never really believed it would happen, even after winning a Team Sprint silver in Sydney 2000. But in 2004 at the Athens Games I shocked myself and probably many other people too, by winning the ‘kilo’ time trial. It happened in the most dramatic of circumstances, as the World record tumbled 3 times before I took to the track to set my time. It’s hard to explain just how it felt when I stepped onto the podium to receive my gold medal and to be introduced for the first time ever as ‘The Olympic Champion: Chris Hoy!’ The Kilo event was dropped the following year from the programme for Beijing, which was a significant moment in my professional career, as it forced me to switch to alternative events and adapt. I began training for the Keirin, Sprint and Team Sprint, hedging my bets somewhat, hoping I could just repeat my success in Athens with a single gold medal.
3 x Olympic Gold Medals
With the help and guidance from the support team around me, I managed to make the transition from a one-dimensional kilo specialist into a sprint and keirin rider in time for the 2008 Games. It was a magical time; the team dominated in a way that had never been seen before at an Olympic Games, with the track riders winning 7 out of the 10 gold medals on offer, 3 of which were won by me. Cycling was thrust onto the front pages by the British press and it heralded a golden era for the sport in the UK.
After the team’s success in Beijing we returned to fantastic support and with British Cycling in the spotlight, things changed quite a bit for me at home. I was voted 2008 BBC Sports Personality of the Year which was quite surreal to see my name on the trophy alongside so many of my all-time sporting heroes. I was also awarded a Knighthood in the 2009 New Year Honours list which capped a quite extraordinary year for me and one I will never forget. What made it all the more special was my Mum receiving an MBE on the same day, for services to nursing, so we were able to celebrate together with the whole family. A day to remember!
2 x Olympic Gold Medals
The opportunity to compete at a home Olympics is something not many athletes are lucky enough to experience. In 2012, aged 36, I was thrilled not only to represent Great Britain, but to lead Team GB into the stadium for the Opening Ceremony – truly a dream come true. Whenever I hear David Bowie ‘Heroes’ now it brings the emotions flooding back! A few days later I won my record-breaking 5th and 6th gold medals and, as I knew this would be the last time I would compete at an Olympics, it was an emotional moment to say the least! I could feel the lump in my throat before I even stepped up onto the podium. My journey which started on a BMX bike in Danderhall 28 years earlier, was finally at an end.
Retirement from competition
Le Mans 24 Hours
I retired from competitive cycling in 2013 and life has changed a lot for me since then. As a motorsport enthusiast, the opportunity to take part (and finish!) the world’s most demanding motorsport endurance race, the Le Mans 24 Hours, in June 2016 was a bucket list experience well and truly ticked off. I now enjoy competing in various Championships and cars, from World Rallycross to Caterhams to GT cars and pretty much anything in between. I love the speed, the challenge, the adrenaline and being back in a team environment.
But, aside from my love of motorsport, cycling will always be my biggest passion and so it was with huge excitement that I launched my own range of bikes – HOY bikes, back in 2013. A few years on, and now with two young children of my own, I take enormous pleasure in watching my own little boy ride his bike and can’t wait for his little sister to join him on two wheels!
I’ve tried my hand at writing and in February 2019 the tenth and final book in the Flying Fergus children’s book series was published. It wasn’t something I ever thought I’d be able to do, and so I’m incredibly proud of what Jo Nadin, Clare Epsom and I created. The aim was to encourage kids to read and to inspire them to ride their bikes too. Hopefully Fergus and his mates’ adventures are having the desired effect! I also published ‘How To Ride A Bike’ at the end of 2018, it’s a cycling manual that compiles everything I learned over the years, to help people of all levels of ability to get the most out of their bikes. It’s almost a biography too in places, as I draw upon the techniques that I used to get to the top, both physical and mental.
Aside from HOY bikes, writing and my family keeping me busy, I am still a huge supporter of British Cycling and very much enjoy the opportunity to commentate at major competitions. I also enjoy sharing my story and experiences through speaking engagements and my role as an Ambassador for a number of partners including Science in Sport and PureGym. I am also passionate about the charities I support, namely UNICEF, Scottish mental health charity SAMH and Laureus.