With the Olympic careers of Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton coming to a close, how glorious it has been to see Laura Trott’s Olympic journey beginning.
The papers, magazines and websites will be full of eulogies to Chris and Vicky, together with reviews of their wonderful careers, and well deserved they will be. But for me, the emergence of the talent that is Laura Trott is a sign that we have got things right as a sport, that our talent pathways have been working well, and that whatever happens in the future we now have a machine that can find, support and develop Gold Medal winning stars of the future.
Let’s just have a quick look back at things on the final day at the Olympic Velodrome.
Vicky seemed to be cruising through every round of the Sprint competition, and when she was announced as the winner of the first match of the final against Anna Meares in a very close photo-finish, all seemed well. Then came the announcement that the Commissaires had relegated her for not holding her line in the final straight. A tough call, arguably the right one, I haven’t yet been able to see the re-run to give a personal opinion. It was clear that Dave Brailsford was arguing the point with the Chief Commissaire. But to no avail. Vicky was one ride down.
In the second ride, again all seemed well, but as soon as Meares moved up to full speed, it was clear that Vicky’s heart wasn’t in it, that her fight had all gone. A silver medal was going to have to be enough. But one Gold and one Silver from her final Olympic Games is a superb swansong. Now what else is there to be said except “Thank you, Vicky, for delighting and enthralling us over the years, thank you so much.”
Meanwhile Laura had been doing her stuff, astonishing and delighting the crowd in equal measure. The 500 metre time trial had us all holding our breath and shouting at the same time, if such a thing is possible! Going in two points behind, Laura needed to win the round and Sarah Hammer finish no higher than 4th, to be assured of Gold. Away she went, putting up the fastest time at each half-lap time check, but what’s that, oh no, Hammer was not letting go, showing as 2nd fastest each time, right up until the last half lap. The crowd roared louder and louder almost blowing Laura around the final half lap until suddenly, miraculously, she crossed the line fastest while Hammer couldn’t hang on and faded in the last 125 metres to 4th. A second wonderful Gold for Laura!
So, to the final Olympic appearance of Sir Chris Hoy. The tension was unbelievable, the expectation level at an all-time high. Could our hero deliver and become the Briton with the most Olympic Gold Medals in history? What must Chris have been feeling as he warmed up, as he sat on the start line, as the pacer came round, as the gun fired? Well, from the way he rode that final lap, when it seemed the German was going to come past, he must have been thinking that there was no way he was not going to win, that his name was already on that medal, that whatever it took - he was going to win. And win he did. Job done. History made.
The place erupted. Amongst the great and the good there to see it were Prince Harry, Princess Anne, Ed Milliband, Seb Coe, John Major, numerous IOC members, BOA Chairman Lord Moynihan (who was moved to hug me!), UK Sport Chair Baroness Sue Campbell, Sports Minister Hugh Robertson, and so many more, all enjoying what can only be described as a superb advertisement for our sport and a brilliant set of performances by the Great Britain Cycling Team.
A truly memorable evening. And what a great moment after all the Awards Ceremonies had been completed and the venue started to empty, to see all the team support staff take over the podium for a photograph to record their achievement. Great job, everyone, great job.
Now for the BMX and MTB. Let’s go!