Sir Chris Hoy’s stress levels are going through the roof. Six Olympic golds, 11 world titles, but he has come up against a challenge that even the ice man himself is finding too hot to handle.
“What about Mo? What about Jess? We’ve had all sorts of exceptional performances. Ryder Cup, tennis…’’
All I did was ask him who should win Sports Personality of the Year, but it has had a similar effect to a bucket of water over a computer hard-drive.
He won himself in 2008: “Hamilton won the F1, Murray made the US Open final. I was happy just to be nominated.’’ Four years later, and we’re really trying to decide who’s the most superhuman.
“On Super Saturday, we were staying in the Olympic village. I could hear the roar out of the window more than I could through the TV. That was very special indeed.’’
After the summer he has had, you could forgive him for staying in a competitive saddle for just a few more revolutions than he should, but that’s not going to happen, and he knew as much long before the Queen met James Bond.
“I had that moment before London 2012. I knew I didn’t want to go on to Rio 2016, but I didn’t want to say so in case something happened before London or during or after that made me think, ‘You know what, four more years isn’t out of the question.’ But nothing changed.
“It’s not the race but the relentless nature of the training, and whether your body can hold up to it. The past four years have got progressively harder. Just the thought of doing four more years, to maintain that level and try to improve – which you have to – seemed very unlikely.
How do two years grab him, then, and the chance to bow out at a Commonwealth Games in his backyard in Scotland, in a Velodrome bearing his own name?
“It’s a big challenge, but there’s a chance I could do it, which is why I haven’t completely discounted going to Glasgow.’’ I’m sure Chris will be enjoying a beer and the beach come Rio 2016, but I’m equally certain he’ll be on the track in 2014, which explains his going to Australia for the rigours of a new year training camp.
“In the past I would’ve been waiting for one of the big German or French or Aussie riders to retire, and just as they did, some other beast would come through. For a number of years to come, Jason Kenny could be the man to beat. The guys in the rest of the world who think they have a better chance of winning [without me], they’d better think again.’’
A bullish quote from the most humble of sporting superstars you’re ever likely to meet.
Gold medal in the team sprint and the keirin, London Olympics
What the commentator said
“Can Sir Chris Hoy, Braveheart himself, seal this gold medal? Who’s going to get it?… Chris Hoy gets the gold medal in the keirin. That’s his sixth gold medal. He becomes the greatest British Olympian ever!”
Who would be your Sports Personality?
“I think it should be Bradley Wiggins, but I say that kind of cringing, because then I think about Andy Murray, then about Katherine Grainger… You could name about 20 people who in a normal year you wouldn’t be surprised if they won, yet some won’t even make the final list.’’
Sports Personality of the Year 2012 begins on Sunday at 7:30pm on BBC1