Sir Chris Hoy MBE is a ruthless competitor of the highest level. However, he has a unique ability to neutralise his status and make you feel like his equal, which sounds ridiculous, seeing as he is the most decorated track cyclist in the world.
Between 2013-2019 I worked within Sky's cycling sponsorship team. During this period, I had the honour to work with Britain's greatest. Meeting my heroes was never a letdown. Sir Bradley Wiggins carries the aura of a rock star, Geraint Thomas has cheeky charm, Joanna Rowsell has thought-provoking intelligence. I'm not trying to brag, I'm just trying to demonstrate how special it feels to be in the company of Sir Chris Hoy.
Perhaps this is due to his humble upbringing? Sir Chris started on a secondhand kids bike that his parents bought at a jumble sale for a fiver. He started racing BMX at the age of 7 - hooked on speed, adrenaline, and competition. Chris had his first taste of Olympic success at Sydney in 2000, with a silver medal in the Team Sprint.
In the 2004 Athens Olympics, Chris took his first gold medal in the Kilo time trial - which was dropped from the Beijing Olympics and forced him to switch and adapt for the Sprint, Team Sprint and Keirin. I'd call this a blessing in disguise, as this transformed him from a one-dimensional kilo specialist into a sprint and keirin legend. The GB track cycling team dominated Beijing, winning 7 out of 10 gold medals on offer. 3 of which were won by Chris. Cycling covered the front pages, which kick-started a golden era for the sport in the UK.
After Beijing, Chris became BBC Sports Personality of the year and was awarded a Knighthood in 2009. His mother received an MBE on the same day for services to nursing (a special family, indeed).
2012 capped off his professional cycling career. The opportunity to compete at a home Olympics is something not many athletes are lucky enough to experience. In 2012, Chris led Team GB into the stadium for the Opening Ceremony. A few days later, he won his record-breaking 5th and 6th gold medals.
Chris is the most elite, non-elitist person I have ever encountered. You always turn up with a bit of stage fright when you meet your heroes. For example, I once took a ride in the Team Wiggins car during the 2015 Tour of Britain. DS, Simon Cope handed me a bottle to pass out the window to Brad. My hands were shaking so much that Brad had to catch the bloody thing with all the skill of a Jonny Wilkinson receiving the ball before his 2003 World Cup Winning drop-kick.
However, within 30 seconds of meeting Chris, I felt at complete ease. I could be myself without nervously stumbling over my words or saying something ridiculous. We shook hands and shared a flapjack in a car park before riding and filming together. Chris had just got back from a trip to Mallorca, so we chatted about one of our mutual favourite climbs on the island, Sa Calobra. I felt like I was talking to an old friend.
Sir Chris is not just the most successful track cyclist - ever, or Great Britain's joint-most successful Olympic athlete of all time. He is a family man and a mental health advocate. To me, this is how a real champion conducts themselves. They give back more than they put in.
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