TRACK cycling king Sir Chris Hoy toasted the most memorable gold medal of his long and illustrious career after leading the men’s pursuit team to an exhilarating triumph on Britain’s best day yet at the London 2012 Olympics.
Hoy, Jason Kenny and Philip Hindes obliterated the world record for the second time in a matter of hours as Team GB defeated France in the final and retained their title in front of a rapturous Velodrome crowd.
It came after Britain had reaped gold in shooting, gold and silver in canoeing, and silvers in rowing and judo, as an unexpected flurry of successes, some unexpected, swept the host nation up to fifth place in the medal table.
Yet amid the jubilation was agony for women’s track cycling sprint pair Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish, who rode the quickest time of the afternoon but finished empty-handed after being relegated for an infringement.
Hoy, savouring a fifth Olympic medal and a fourth gold, said: “I always felt my first win in Athens was the most memorable. That was my lifetime’s ambition, I never thought I’d top that feeling – until tonight.
“When I crossed the line and heard the roar from the crowd I didn’t have to look at the scoreboard; I knew we’d won the race. This is the most memorable gold medal of my whole career.”
The 36-year-old Scot, who could add a sixth gold in the keirin, said he had been inspired by the success of Bradley Wiggins, whom he superseded as Britain’s most successful Olympian, in Wednesday’s time trial and last month’s Tour de France.
Hoy added: “We watched the road guys do such a fantastic job here and all summer and you can’t help but be inspired by what they and Bradley have achieved for the whole nation and for the sport, so when you get your chance to step up you want to do the business.”
The men’s trio signalled their intent by setting an Olympic record in their first race and a world record in their second, but blitzed it again in the final, finishing in 42.600 seconds, with Princes William and Harry among the 6,000-strong crowd.
Their female counterparts looked destined for gold too, but were expelled from the final after a review of their second race showed that Pendleton had in fact overtaken Varnish before permitted. Germany won gold after China were similarly relegated in the final, but Pendleton can win a medal tomorrow if she reaches the keirin final.