By Justin Palmer
LONDON, Nov 27 (Reuters) – In the months that followed Chris Hoy becoming Britain’s most successful Olympian, he has been coveted at civic receptions, saluted during open top bus rides, flown in fighter jets and received the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh.
Away from the track distractions have passed in a whirlwind since he stood on the podium for the final time in August, tears streaming, with the realization that his monumental Olympic journey was over.
With six gold medals to his name and seven in all from a glittering career that has also brought 11 world titles and a host of memories, the temptation to quit the saddle is a question the 36-year-old Scot must shortly address.
The passion and drive to go on until the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 – and compete in the velodrome named after him – are still there. Hoy, who won three Olympic golds in Beijing four years ago and one in Athens in 2004, just hopes his body does its bit.
“To keep going until the Commonwealth Games in 2014 – that will be the ideal end to my career,” Hoy told Reuters on Tuesday after announcing the launch of his own Hoy brand of bikes in conjunction with retailer Evans Cycles.
“The only way I will be there is if I’m in peak condition. I won’t go there just to get the tracksuit.
“It’s a case of suck it and see… go out there, get back into training, wait a few weeks and don’t make any rash decisions.
“After a couple of races and then a bit more training, I’ll get a clearer idea of where I am and whether it’s going to be possible. I don’t want to be there just for the sake of it. I want to be successful and it’s a very high level.”
On a wet and dreary day in an uninspiring area of south London, Hoy said motivation to keep competing was not a problem. But the aches and pains might just be.
He heads to the warmer climes of Perth in Australia next week to train with the British team, but will skip the world championships in Minsk in February.
“You go on because you enjoy it,” he said. “There are so few competitions compared to the amount of training you do. You have to enjoy the day to day – the whole process, not just the outcome. And I still do. I enjoy riding my bike. It’s a hobby…it’s something I do for fun.
“But the nature of the training means you ache. You are physically sore, you wake up the next day, your legs, back, everything… you do suffer from it. It’s not a new phenomenon but you keep thinking it’s the worst it’s ever been.”
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said Hoy’s tears of joy after clinching his sixth Games gold, and his second of the London Games in the keirin to overtake Steve Redgrave’s five rowing golds was the defining moment of London 2012.
Reflecting on those emotional minutes on the podium, the British national anthem reverberating around a hushed and packed velodrome, Hoy said he could not stop the tears.
“This was always going to my last Games,” he said.
“If they had not have been in London there was a good chance I might have retired after Beijing. It was the draw of the home Games that kept be going until I was 36.
“To stand there with six gold medals – I remember standing on the podium at Sydney (in 2000) with my first silver medal – I would have been delighted to have retired with that silver medal as my main achievement – but to think that I had gone on and done six it was very emotional.
“Just seeing everybody there…it was the last event of the whole track cycling program – all the teams had finished, everyone had come round to the front of the podium.
“I could see all the coaches, team mates, rivals from other teams – everybody lined up. Picking out individual faces and realizing this was the last time you were going to be here in this position.”
When he does call time on his racing career, Hoy said his venture into having his own brand would allow him to “still play with bikes”.
“It’s been a dream of mine to launch bikes with my own name on them. When I do retire this is what I can get my teeth into and focus on,” he said.