The recipe for success is a tricky one to master, so who wouldn’t jump at the chance to pick up tips from a six-times Olympic gold medallist? Cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy, now 44, may have just what you’re looking for in his new book Be Amazing!. Geared towards young adults, but with advice suitable for all ages, genders and interests, it’s a ground-breaking guide to becoming your best self.
It’s also Chris’s first time writing solo, an achievement he’s pretty chuffed about. “I really enjoyed the process of reflecting on my childhood and the people whose advice helped me on my way,” he says. “When it arrived in the post a few days ago there was a real feeling of pride. I hope it’s going to make a difference to whoever reads it.”
One of the most successful Olympic cyclists of all time, and having earned an MBE and a knighthood for his services to the sport, he represents the best of British athleticism. Few people are better placed to lead you up the ladder to your dreams.
That being said, the champ possesses no airs or graces but is the embodiment of good sportsmanship. His modesty becomes apparent as soon as we start our Zoom call. Did the accolades of World, Olympic and Commonwealth champion ever seem on the cards?
“Not in a million years,” he insists. “I wasn’t the kid who was amazing at sport who you’d have picked out as a potential champion. Yet here I am with six Olympic golds – which is utterly ridiculous. If I can do it, anybody can.”
“I remember going to the Dunedin Cycling Club and the coach, Ray Harris, asked all us juniors to write down our one-year goal, our four-year goal and our dream. I thought if you’ve got the chance to dream you may as well aim high, so I wrote that my dream was to become Olympic world champion. I was the only person who said that.”
It may be hard to believe now, but then that goal really was out of Chris’s reach. “I pretty much got mocked – not in a mean way – my mates just knew I was in no way the best cyclist in the group and I’d never shown signs that anything like that was possible. But Ray took me seriously. He was beyond his years in terms of his approach to training and helped me get the best out of myself.”
So how did Chris make the dream a reality? “You’ve got to break it down into stepping stones – that’s what Ray taught us. Break it down then all you’ve got to focus on is making that next step. From that day I started thinking more methodically about my goals and how I’d reach each target. At the time it seemed like just another evening at the club, but it was a special moment that set me on my path.”
Since retiring from the sport, Chris has started his own bicycle line, Hoy Bikes, taken up motorsport and written several books, including the Flying Fergus series for children. His latest author credit comes in the form of a guide to help young people learn what it takes to become a champion.
“Kids and their parents always ask me how I became Olympic champion and what I had to do to make it happen. I’ve drawn on all my experience – and that of other people – in order to write this book,” he says. “I thought it’d be a lovely thing to put into someone’s hands when they’re not a child anymore and they’re having to make the decisions and lay the foundations that’ll see them into adulthood.”
The book includes the tips, tasks and truths that Chris himself has used to help him achieve his goals. “I want to encourage kids to look beyond the idea of being famous. I’ve visited countless schools and kids often say that they just want to be famous, but they don’t even know what for.
“This book is about helping kids discover what they love doing and how to be amazing at it. With all the talent shows on TV, it’s so easy to fall for the idea that people become successful overnight. I actually hate the word talent,” adds Chris. “It gives the impression that someone like Usain Bolt jumps out of bed and is the fastest man in the world without trying. It takes work to be that good.”
“The reason Olympic medals mean so much is because of the blood, sweat and tears that goes into earning them. I never got used to it. The novelty doesn’t wear off, because each one is special in its own way.”
So if anyone was under the impression that achieving their dreams was an easy ride they have another think coming?
“Exactly,” agrees Chris. “Failure is where the best and biggest lessons are learnt. The book addresses that. It’s not trying to create the next champion, it’s just a tool that will, hopefully, help kids make the most of their lives. I want to encourage them to find their passion, be ambitious and to have a smile on their face while doing it.
“When I was younger I was certainly guilty of thinking that happiness came from winning. Don’t get me wrong. It’s an incredible feeling to achieve those dreams. But when I look back, most of my happy memories are from the times leading up to the win. There’s nothing like building friendships with your teammates and travelling together to amazing places. That’s what you remember from it all. That’s the important bit.”
Since retiring from professional cycling, Chris has become a father twice. “Becoming a dad was definitely the biggest change in my life and has given me a totally different perspective.”
His son, Callum, six, and daughter Chloe, three, have had both parents around through lockdown. “Being able to spend time with the kids has no doubt been the best part,” he says. “Don’t get me wrong. It’s not been a bed of roses. Tiring them out is the key, but I don’t really have any advice for parents.”
Chris and Sarra married in 2010 and he insists the pair are constantly seeking parental advice themselves. “Being a parent is tough and there’s no right way to do it,” Chris confesses. “My only advice is that you mustn’t compare yourself to others –that’s another lesson the book tries to teach.”
Chris Hoy’s book, Be Amazing! An Inspiring Guide To Being Your Own Champion (Walker Books, £9.99) is out now.