Britain’s all-time greatest Olympian reveals the unhealthy lifestyle he had to ditch in his quest to become a gold-medal winner.
With six gold medals and one silver, Sir Chris Hoy is Great Britain’s most successful Olympic athlete ever. Born in Edinburgh, he won Olympic gold at Athens 2004, three at Beijing 2008, and his fifth and sixth in London 2012. He was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2008 and knighted in 2009. Since retiring in 2013, he has launched Hoy Bikes and co-created the Flying Fergus children’s books. He lives in Manchester with his wife Sarra and their children, Callum and Chloe.
My first food memory is trying to get out of eating school lunches.
Teachers would stand at the end of the table and, if you tried to throw food away, they would make you sit back down and eat it. I would finish my little carton of milk, pop the lunch inside and shut the carton. Then I could smuggle them into the bin.
When I was a child I was obsessed with the film Jaws, and I couldn’t believe it when I saw shark on a menu in Spain.
I went on and on until my parents let me have it. It was lovely, and I wrote a thank you card, with a picture of Jaws, to the chef.
During my first term at St Andrews I lived on takeaways.
It was only when I had pictures taken with the family at Christmas that I saw how much weight I’d put on. I’d barely touched my bike or done any training for three months. I’d been at the union every night having a brilliant time, but it wasn’t healthy.
After university I moved to Manchester to be near the velodrome.
I met Sarra in 2006 – she’d come from Edinburgh on a Friday and I would pick her up at 9pm after I’d finished training, had a massage and dashed to the supermarket. Dinner would be Walker’s Sensations crisps, a Pizza Express pizza and a bottle of red. I could have made more effort but I didn’t want to set the bar too high!
The worst meal I’ve ever had was in Mauritius.
Sarra and I had a tasting menu – the chef was trying a bit too hard. He had a liquidised caesar salad in a shot glass. I saw Sarra put it to her lips and try to swallow it, her eyes watered and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s going to gag.’ She managed not to, but said, ‘That was close.’ I said, ‘It can’t be that bad’ and downed mine. But, yes, it was!
Since I retired, my diet has massively changed.
I used to constantly graze between meals. You need the energy, but also you have an insatiable appetite. Sometimes I miss that because I love eating. The biggest change is that I can have a glass of wine pretty much whenever I want.
During my career, I wouldn’t touch alcohol for 10 months of the year.
At the end of the season we’d go for a celebration but, when you don’t have any alcohol at all, you become a complete lightweight and we’d all be on our knees after two pints. Nights out were cheap!
Breakfast is my favourite meal...
I had my best ever at Duck and Waffle, Dan Doherty’s restaurant in one of the tallest buildings in London. You’re 40 storeys up and the food is incredible. It’s open 24 hours and they serve breakfast all the time. I had the signature duck and waffle, outstanding: a waffle, duck egg, fried duck leg and mustard maple syrup.
I do like cooking but – and this sounds a feeble excuse – because Sarra’s so good and enjoys it, I don’t cook a massive amount.
I make the coffees though! I have a La Marzocco GS3, the Rolls Royce of coffee machines, and I’ve done a couple of barista courses. When you’re competing or training you’re not going to the pub, so cafés become your social hub on rest days. I got into coffee and bought myself a nice machine – a proper grinder – and I have freshly roasted beans delivered to the house every week from a roastery in Scotland. I usually have a ristretto, the very first part of the espresso pour which is really sweet.
My last supper would be slow-cooked Wagyu beef and langoustines – a surf and turf, with an amazing bottle of Bordeaux.
I’m not fussed about dessert, although as a kid it was my favourite part of the meal. I went to a restaurant in Australia once with one of my heroes, Graeme Obree, who was world champion back in the nineties. He is a kind of eccentric genius: he built his own bikes and reinvented the position he rode in on a bike. He ordered his dessert for a starter and I said, ‘What are you doing that for?’ And he said, ‘In case I haven’t got space for it at the end – it’s the best part of the meal.’ You can’t argue with that logic!
Your food heaven? High-quality barbecue. I love the flavour of red meat but there’s a vast difference between your average supermarket stuff and beef that’s been reared the right way.
And hell? A wilted sandwich on a train or plane.
Favourite celebrity chef? Tom Kitchin, because I’ve been to his restaurant in Edinburgh loads of times and he’s a down-to-earth, nice bloke.
Describe yourself in three words. Driven and mildly obsessive – I sound like a right catch!
Your ideal weekend? We haven’t had a weekend without kids since Chloe’s been born so I would love one-to-one time with Sarra. We’d leave Chloe and Callum with the grandparents, jump in the car and go straight up the M6 to Scotland, where we’d either go to Edinburgh and catch up with friends over a meal, or we’d stay somewhere remote in the Highlands, just the two of us.
Dream dinner party guests? Rob Brydon: you would get 20 people for the price of one!
What did you have for breakfast today? Poached eggs and ham on toast, with a bit of cracked pepper.
Favourite tipple? Red wine: either a young Aussie shiraz or an old bordeaux.