Samantha Lane April 04, 2012
Rolling into town: Sir Chris Hoy, the most successful Olympic male cyclist ever, is competing in Melbourne. Photo: AFP
EVEN the head coach of Great Britain's cycling team calls him ''Sir Chris''.
Within this reverence there is irreverence, but no lack of truth. At the Beijing games in 2008, Chris Hoy became the most successful Olympic male cyclist ever. He was knighted because of it.
At the track world championships that begin in Melbourne today, the 36-year-old Scotsman headlines the start list. In Glasgow, the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome is under construction for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and Hoy, Scotland's most successful Olympian, wants to race at them - at the age of 38.
Before that, he is planning to defend three Olympic crowns - in the sprint, keirin and team sprint - at the London Olympics in July. Off the bike, Hoy is regarded as a true gentleman. On it, he is a beast; the measurements of 1.85 metres (Hoy's height) and 92 kilograms (his rough race weight) say nothing of the man-machine he is.
''Intimidating is a word I'd use,'' Shane Kelly, a three-time world track champion for Australia who last raced against Hoy in the Olympic keirin final in Beijing, said yesterday.
''In his legs and his quads and his butt, it's just all power. Sometimes it was like, 'What do you have to do to beat this guy?' And I don't think I'd be the first person to have said that.''
In Kelly's estimation there has never been a better track cyclist than Hoy. In fact, he regards him as one of the best athletes in any sport right now.
Hoy's triple golden treat in China had not been equalled by a British Olympian, in any sport, since 1908. It makes him a poster boy of Team GB ahead of the next Olympics, though in recent months Hoy and other members of the British track unit have escaped both the English winter and the glare of an expectant public by training in Perth.
Speaking on the eve of this week's meet, which will all but settle Olympic selection, Hoy gave no inkling of feeling burdened.
He likened the build-up to the Olympics to a hurdles race - the philosophy being that it's futile focusing on conquests in the near future if you don't succeed in the present.
Hoy said: ''Some people may see it as pressure being the home nation and having that focus on the team, but in my perspective it is an opportunity. It's a chance to do something you only get the chance to do once in a lifetime if you are lucky - to have a home crowd at the Olympic games.''