E.T. fan Hoy is out of this world

BEIJING (Reuters) - If it were not for the movie “E.T.”, British cyclist Chris Hoy might not have had the huge grin on his face on Tuesday having just bagged his third Olympic gold medal.

Silver medallist Jason Kenny (L) and gold medallist Chris Hoy of Britain pose with their medals after the men's sprint track cycling race at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 19, 2008. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

The “Flying Scot”, who won all three sprint track cycling events at the Laoshan velodrome, had an unusual start to his successful cycling career. He was first inspired to get on a bicycle by Steven Spielberg’s movie about an alien who befriends bike-riding earthlings.

As a 6-year-old he was so interested in the BMX bicycles ridden by the children in the movie that he pestered his parents to let him ride. Soon, he began racing bicycle motocross.

Though he was successful, Hoy switched loyalties as a teenager to concentrate on track sprints.

In the last few years he has set the track world on fire. He took gold in the one-kilometre time trial in Athens in 2004, an event in which he holds multiple world titles. But then his pet event was scrapped to allow BMX in as a medal event in Beijing.

So in Beijing Hoy, 32, concentrated on the team sprint, the individual sprint and the keirin. No one came near him.

After the sprint finals competition on Tuesday, Hoy’s opponents and team mates alike shook their head in amazement at his speed and power.

Victoria Pendleton, who like Hoy won the prestigious sprint event on Tuesday, called him “Superman” and said Hoy was her sporting hero.

Jason Kenny, Britain’s number two sprinter at the Games who raced for the gold against his team mate, said he gave it all he could but Hoy was just stronger.

Hoy insists that he is not invincible.

He credits hard work and a new-found tactical knowledge for his success.

“I try to go into a race with a frame of mind that I couldn’t have trained harder,” he said. “So I take the pressure off myself and know that I’m in the best possible shape that I could be in. “If you go to a race and you’re under-prepared and you’re not confident in your training and you have doubts then you have anxiety.

“So I get a mental strength through training as hard as I can every possible time. I believe that hard work is what gets you to the top.”

Hoy is Britain’s first world sprint champion in a half century and is the first rider to hold world titles in the four speed events -- the kilometre, team sprint, keirin and individual sprint.

In addition to cycling, Hoy rowed for Scotland and won a British Championship silver in the junior coxless pairs.

He joined his first cycling club in 1992 and started out racing time trials, mountain bike, road and track. By 1994 he dropped most of the events to focus on the velodrome.

Additional reporting by Francois Thomazeau; Editing by Jeremy Laurence