Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Es la Hoya!

OK, a fairly crap attempt to make a funny headline out of the name of Chris Hoy but all the best and most obvious ones have been taken because this guy is a legend.

After having missed most of the games due to being on holiday in Vietnam, it was tantalizing to have to make a stopover in London yesterday on what was one of the most interesting days for me. I would have loved to have been able to watch the Men's Triathlon, one of the few events for which you don't need a ticket. Luckily I was back home in time to be able to watch the final of the Men's Keirin which was effectively Chris Hoy's swan song (although it seems likely he'll be unable to resist taking part in the Commonwealth Games in 2014 in Glasgow, in his home country Scotland).

I don't think I have been as excited to watch a race since the Searle brothers won the Coxed Pair in Barcelona. (By the way, Greg Searle has just won a bronze medal in the Men's Eights, 20 years later!) The Keirin is a very peculiar race which is enormously popular in Japan, where billions of dollars are changed hands in betting on riders as if they were dogs or horses. A kind of motorbike with pedals leads the race off with the riders in tow - the contrast between the old fashioned motorbike (technical name: a derny) with rider sitting bolt upright and the cyclists crouched behind on their hi tech superbikes is quite striking - and then the speed is gradually ramped up until... all hell breaks loose and it is a mad scramble for the line.

Chris Hoy won in convincing style and, judging by how happy the silver and bronze medallists were with their result, it looked like it had been pretty much a forgone conclusion, although the Keirin is a very tactical race in which potentially anything can happen. This converts Chris Hoy - sorry, Sir Chris Hoy - in Great Britain's Olympian with the most gold medals (overtaking Sir Steve Redgrave). Ironic that it should be in such a tactical race when Hoy makes it very clear in his autobiography (which I read on holiday) that he got into track racing and, in particular the Kilo (1 km time trial), because it was a race whose outcome he could control almost mathematically. In spite of that he bows out virtually undefeated in the Keirin.

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