Sir Chris Hoy retires, assured of his place in British sporting history

 

The debate over who is the greatest British Olympian will perhaps never be settled but one thing is certain - Sir Chris Hoy retires as one of the towering figures in this country's sporting history.

Not only because he won six Olympic gold medals, not only because he is one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet, but because he has been at the vanguard of a major shift in our sporting culture - the figurehead for cycling's transformation from the minority to the mainstream.

Golden Hoy - the gold medals

Sir Chris Hoy

Olympic Games

  • 2012: Team sprint & keirin
  • 2008: Team sprint, keirin & sprint
  • 2004: 1km track time trial

World Championships

  • 2012: Keirin
  • 2010: Keirin
  • 2008: Sprint & keirin
  • 2007: Keirin & 1km time trial
  • 2006: 1km time trial
  • 2005: Team sprint
  • 2004: 1km time trial
  • 2002: 1km time trial & team sprint

Commonwealth Games

  • 2006: Team sprint
  • 2002: 1km time trial

A sunny but blustery Murrayfield was an incongruous stage to bring down the curtain on such a distinguished Olympic performer. But even Scotland's rugby giants would have nodded to the scale of his achievements in a 20-year career which may never be bettered.

Hoy told me he made his mind up to call it a day during a two-month holiday with his wife Sarra. And while he said it was a difficult and emotional decision, he also felt relief to have brought the uncertainty to an end.

Well-known for shedding the odd tear on the podium, Hoy just about held it together as he broke the widely trailed news to a room of journalists in the President's Suite.

Of course, bowing out at the Commonwealth Games in a velodrome named after him in Glasgow next summer would have been a much better way to go.

But at the age of 37 Hoy realised his body wasn't up to it. He has been training since London and the results weren't good.

Having produced another invincible performance on the boards in Stratford at London 2012 it's easy to forget just what a battle he overcame to be there at all.

His decision will be a blow to organisers of the 2014 Games - he was to be the poster boy and big-ticket attraction at an event that was already struggling to emerge from London's golden shadow.

But organisers are putting on a brave face and pointing to his high-profile role as an ambassador. And besides, as Hoy said today, it's now time for another generation to enjoy the limelight.

For his part, he believes his great sprint rival Jason Kenny will now step up and become the biggest attraction in British cycling.

The truth is that the sport is in such fine fettle that no one figure may come to dominate it in the future - not like Hoy did anyway.

Sir Chris Hoy: Andy Murray and others pay tribute to 'incredible' Scot