Sir Chris Hoy to retire and miss Commonwealth Games in 2014

Chris Hoy has amassed a lifetime's worth of honours in 11 years of competitive cycling – 19 international gold medals, a knighthood, sports personality of the year awards and the hard-won status of Britain's greatest ever Olympian.

But as he formally announced his retirement from international competition, he summed up his decision quite simply: "Riding bikes in circles, you know, it's great, but it's not life and death."

Now 37, Hoy endured days of pain and often numbing exhaustion as he trained to win his record total of six Olympic cycling golds. And last year, that dedication culminated in two nerve-jangling gold medal victories before an ecstatic home crowd at the London Olympics.

During an audience with the media at Murrayfield rugby stadium in Edinburgh on Thursday, Hoy said he had realised even as he trained for last year's Olympics that his intense, gruelling regime and his age were catching up on him. It had taken "every last ounce of energy and effort", he said, and had left him spent.

The realisation that his best was now behind him had grown since then – so much so that he had to give up his dreams of racing in next year's Commonwealth games in Glasgow, where he would have been the undoubted star in a new velodrome named the Sir Chris Hoy arena in his honour.

It was not enough to simply turn up and "wear the uniform" if he didn't believe he would win, even before a partisan Scottish crowd in his own stadium. "It is a hard time – it is one moment at the end of your career when you say 'enough is enough'."

Hoy has now set his eyes on a far less pressured life: he plans to design his own brand of bikes, enjoy life with his wife Sara, help Glasgow win the 2018 youth world games, resume the mountain biking he enjoyed as a teenager growing up in Edinburgh and take up the occasional amateur road race, perhaps the all-comers etape stage in the Tour de France.

He might even, he admitted, take on a Land's End to John O'Groats charity ride. But that, he said, would be his limit. He would not, he insisted, try his hand at Strictly Come Dancing or a holiday in the Australian jungle with Ant and Dec on I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here.

And yes, he confirmed, he had been asked to appear on Strictly. "It's not that I don't have frivolity in my life, but doing it in front of millions of people isn't for me. Strictly Come Dancing and the jungle doesn't do it for me," he said.

Hoy quietly disputed the idea he was Britain's greatest Olympian. That honour, he said, belonged to Sir Steve Redgrave. Hoy may have won the largest number of gold medals of any British competitor, doing so over three Olympics, but Redgrave, as the holder of five gold medals won in the same discipline over five consecutive Olympics, had shown greater endurance and steel.

"To be labelled the greatest, it's subjective, isn't it? And to me, in my subjective opinion, I think Sir Steve is and will be for many, many years," Hoy said.

"Steve is the greatest in British history, but on paper I have more gold medals than him. It's amazing just to be mentioned in the same sentence as him. I'm very flattered. Sir Steve is one of my heroes."

But if he had applied total conviction to winning, he now had to have the conviction to admit it was time to hang up his cycling shoes.

"It's a decision that I didn't take lightly and I thought about it very hard. In sport at the highest level you are dealing in the smallest margins and you can tell when you are good, but not good enough."

Powered by article was written by Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent, for The Guardian on Thursday 18th April 2013 18.57 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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