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17 October 2014

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Cycling

Chris Hoy wins Olympic gold 2004

Chris Hoy on the track

© SNSpix

The Edinburgh Commonwealth Games in 1986 were considered a sporting and financial disaster and the last time Scotland was allowed to stage a major sporting event. However, an unexpected bonus from the games came through the resurfacing of the velodrome in Meadowbank Stadium, which has amazingly made Scotland one of the top track cycling nations in the world.

Both Craig McLean and Chris Hoy were introduced to the sport on the open air track in the east of Edinburgh and have now become two of the best track cyclists in the world today. Especially impressive considering the size of Scotland and its lack of cycling heritage.

Chris Hoy, whose success at the one kilometre time trial leaves him with basically nothing left to win, is aware of the impact Meadowbank has had on his career. He said simply: "I don't see how any of us would have taken up the sport if the track hadn't been there.

"It's not the ideal facility but if there had been no track I don't think there would have been any track success for Scottish riders."

Apart from a place to practise their sport, many young athletes need a figure to which they can aspire and Chris Hoy was no different.

For young Scottish footballers there are plenty of high-profile, home-based role models, but for aspiring cyclists, Scottish champions are few and far between. It was pretty fortunate then that Graeme Obree was at his peak when the young Chris Hoy first started cycling on the track.

Hoy said: "I remember watching a TV documentary about the Chris Boardman and Graeme Obree rivalry and finding it fascinating.

"There was Graeme Obree training in his backyard and Chris Boardman in a laboratory with technical back-up and psychological support. The whole thing just captured my imagination at that stage in my life."

Hoy admits that he found Scotland's cycling world champion and world hour record breaker an inspirational figure.

He said: "Graeme was just this amateur from a cycling backwater who had no backing or support, but off his own back he took on cycling legends like Eddy Merckx and beat their times against the clock."

He added: "I was definitely inspired by him when I was just starting out."

The admiration goes both ways.

Graeme Obree said of Hoy: "What he has achieved is remarkable. He is Scotland's first Olympic champion in 24 years."

Chris Hoy in full flight

© SNSpix

Hoy first started cycling as a seven-year-old on his BMX bike and then moved onto mountain biking as a teenager. His interest in all things connected with bikes led him to join a local club, Dunedin Cycling Club, in his native Edinburgh, where he tried different types of cycling but realised he didn't have the physical build to make it as a road cyclist. However, his club would train on the velodrome in Meadowbank one night a week and it was through this Hoy found his niche.

He said: "The Dunedin Cycling Club had their training down there on a Friday night and I thought I would give it a go. I quite liked it and put my name down to borrow a bike for the following season."

From small beginnings he has developed into the world's fastest man over one kilometre and accumulated an Olympic gold and silver, three World Championship gold, two silver and two bronze, and a Commonwealth gold and bronze.

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