On Thursday April 19th, Great Britain bade farewell to a genuine Olympic icon. Chris Hoy, Team GB’s most successful Olympian of all time, announced his retirement from track cycling in his home city of Edinburgh.

The six-time gold medallist decided it was time to throw in the towel at the age of 37 amid concerns that he wouldn’t be good enough to reach the podium at the Commonwealth Games next year. This act of magnanimity – stepping aside so a younger rider may claim the glory for Scotland – was a fitting way to end a truly distinguished career.

Watching the London Olympics last year, it was impossible to escape the mantra upon which the Games were founded: “Inspire a generation.” In truth, Chris Hoy has been doing this virtually throughout his time in the sport. He played an important part in Team GB’s 21st century renaissance, winning silver in Sydney in 2000 and claiming his first gold in 2004 before adding three and two more in Beijing and London respectively.

Tributes poured in from all corners following Thursday’s press conference – from mentors, mentees, team-mates and the rest of the sporting world. It is rare, in this cynical country of ours, to hear the word ‘great’ applied so liberally to an individual with so little objection. This is in no small part due to the sheer likability of the Scotsman.

He has always been unflustered and friendly when dealing with the press; he’s accepted defeat with grace and victory with humility. Journalists speak of how much they enjoy conversing with him, and we at home can’t help but be drawn to his wide smile and his booming Lothian accent.

His cycling peers also regard Hoy as a model professional. Various Team GB cyclists have cited Chris Hoy’s work ethic as an inspiration that helped them achieve what they have on the track. Indeed, the fact that he was even considering continuing such a physically demanding sport when much closer to 40 than 30 demonstrates this. In a sport with a history riddled with dishonesty and scandal, he is a true exponent of hard work and dedication.

One of the most memorable moments from London 2012 was Hoy receiving an emotional bear-hug from fellow great Sir Steve Redgrave, shortly after winning his sixth Olympic gold medal to surpass the rower’s total. Discussions regarding Great Britain’s greatest Olympian could go on forever, and his record will no doubt be beaten one day too – quite possibly by a younger former team-mate.

But after six Olympic, twelve World and two Commonwealth titles over a glittering 20-year career, we should all be glad we were around to bear witness to a real Olympic legend.


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