LONDON (Reuters) - Six-times Olympic champion Chris Hoy, who spearheaded a golden period of British track cycling dominance, announced his retirement on Thursday content that he had nothing left to prove after a long and stellar career.
Britain’s most successful Olympian, who won two golds at the 2012 London Games to add to three from Beijing four years earlier and his first in Athens in 2004, said the time was right to quit the saddle having exhausted “every last ounce of effort and energy”.
“I am officially announcing my retirement. It was not a decision I took easily or lightly, but I know it’s the right decision,” Hoy told a news conference in Edinburgh.
The 37-year-old had been deliberating for months whether to compete in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in his native Scotland, and in the velodrome named after him, but said it would be one championship too far.
”Nothing would give me more pleasure than going to Glasgow, but I don’t want to be there for the numbers.
”I feel I have got every last ounce of effort and energy out of myself. I made it to London and I was successful but maybe people don’t realize just how much that took out of me.
“Trying to go on for another year would have been too much and I didn’t want to just turn up and wave to the crowd and get the tracksuit.”
Hoy won his first Olympic gold in the 1km time trial at the Athens Games and followed up by winning the team sprint, keirin and sprint in Beijing, the first Briton since 1908 to win three gold at one Games.
Last year in London he secured two more golds in the team sprint, helping clock a world record time, and keirin to overtake rower Steve Redgrave as the Briton with the most gold medals.
Fellow British cyclist Bradley Wiggins has also won seven Olympic medals with Hoy ahead of the Tour de France winner on ‘gold difference’.
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said Hoy’s tears of joy after clinching his sixth Games gold was the defining moment of London 2012.
Hoy, who also won a silver medal in the team sprint at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and 11 world titles, has been at the forefront of British cycling success in recent years.
Britain won seven of the 10 track cycling gold medals up for grabs in London, equaling their 2008 tally.
“I have been in the sport for 19 years and witnessed how the sport has changed out of all recognition. It has gone from a minority sport to a major sport and to have been part of the journey is a massive honour,” he said.
”I don’t want it to be a sad moment, I want to celebrate it and to be happy because I know it is the right decision.
“There is always a temptation to go on perhaps too long, it’s not that I‘m frightened of losing it’s just I feel I can’t ask for anymore.”
Britain’s multiple Tour de France stage winner Mark Cavendish led the tributes to Hoy, saying: “I could not have hoped for a better face to represent my sport through these growing years.”
British Cycling team performance director Dave Brailsford added: “Chris’s application, athleticism and dedication are second to none and I’ve said it many times but he is a true Olympic champion who embodies all of the Olympic values.”
Writing by Justin Palmer, editing by Mark Meadows