Sir Chris Hoy: why money gives athletes the opportunity to succeed
As an eleven-times a world champion and six-times an Olympic champion, Edinburgh’s Sir Chris Hoy was responsible for taking track cycling mainstream. Now he believes the latest incarnation of his sport, the UCI track champions league, can do for cycling what Sky’s coverage has done for Formula 1.
The six-stage event, which has December dates in London after next weekend’s second round in Lithuania, is a new format for 18 track cyclists in the world to race, raise exposure and compete for a healthy €500,000 prize pot.
“It’s long overdue to have a competition series for the top riders,” said Sir Chris, who was back on home territory in Edinburgh this week. “You can see how excited they were on the night and it's only going to get bigger.
"The condensed three-hour session format, TV graphics, the tech behind it and heart-rate and power data from the riders like is taking it to the next level – a bit like Sky coverage did with Formula One.”
One of Britain’s most decorated Olympians would have revelled in it, had it been around during his cycling pomp, but his own track success was significant in raising the profile of his sport through living rooms across the nation.
After being part of the first date in Majorca as a studio analyst, he insists he was fortunate his career began when National Lottery funding was diverted into sport, something that he has continued to support.
“From an athlete’s perspective you get UCI points and prize money – cycling can be quite a poor sport in terms of rewarding it's athletes - the only way many of the top riders can make a living is actually through external sponsorship, appearances or endorsements and there are not many of them around.
"It's not like tennis or golf, but this is a start and will just increase the popularity of the sport and make stars for fans to follow and get excited about.”
Hoy looks back on his start which coincided with lottery investment in sport and provided one of the cornerstones of his success.
“The lottery, for most athletes in Britain, is their main source of income. It was a lifeline for me to pursue my dream.
“There can be a perception that money buys you medals but it doesn't – it gives you the chance to get the right people in place, the right facilities and create the right opportunities for the athletes to do the job. Some teams and some sports are really wealthy and have a huge backing but they still can't win and to me that shows that it is not all about money.
"You obviously need it but it is giving athletes the chance of a fair fight, that was why I was so grateful and so lucky it happened in my career.”