EXCLUSIVE: CHRIS HOY – THE GOLD MEDAL DAD
Six-time Olympic Gold medal winner and first-time father, Sir Chris Hoy, tells DAD.info about the new-found joys of parenthood, and how he and wife Sarra coped with the shock when their baby, Callum, arrived 11 weeks prematurely...
Hi Chris. Congratulations on the birth of your son, Callum, last October. Are you enjoying Daddy duties?
Oh, it’s amazing. I was away for four days in a row earlier this year and when I got back I could see such a difference in Callum, he’s just growing every single day. Because he was born prematurely, he was so small, so we can probably notice it even more because his growth has been pretty rapid, which is a good thing.
It’s the little things that you notice, every little stage, whether it’s the first time he smiles, the first time he’s able to actually focus on you, to follow your hand, these little things he starts to develop, it’s an amazing feeling. It’s hard work and you don’t get as much sleep, but across the board it’s just an amazing thing to be able to experience.
Callum spent a spell in the hospital after the birth. It must have been a frightening time...
Yes, it was. He was born in October and didn't come home until just before Christmas. He was born very early and was 11 weeks premature, which was a real shock for me and Sarra, but luckily although he was in intensive care and in an incubator, he didn’t have any actual health problems – he was just very small. But now he’s healthy and doing really well. The key thing was just to get him bigger as quickly as possible, so we did everything we could to help him to gain weight and get stronger.
Have you got a tricycle set up already for little Callum?
Ha! I don’t know about tricycles – I think the first thing will be a balance bike, to get him into cycling. They were never around when I was a kid; stabilisers were the way forward then. But stabilisers don’t really teach you about balancing, and there are kids who are two or three years of age who are able to cycle now because they learnt on balance bikes. You’re just not strong enough to turn the pedals at an early age, but if you learn the basics about balancing and using your body weight first, then as soon as you are strong enough to actually turn the pedals, you can teach kids on bikes. I was six when I learnt to ride a bike… just think if I’d got into cycling when I was three!
You could have brought home few extra Golds, Chris!
Maybe, but I’d have burnt out early on, that’s the trouble...
You’ve brought out a range of children’s bikes with your company, HOY bikes, and also an adult clothing range with Vulpine. Is it nice for you to give back, having achieved so much in the cycling world yourself?
I’ve been pretty lucky to do what I love for so many years, and to still do it now as a hobby. To be able to do it day in, day out when you’re 38 years of age is fantastic, so I suppose in a way, I’m just trying to put back a bit into sport and into cycling in general.
I want to encourage people to make it part of their lives, because it can be such a fun thing to do, no matter what level you choose to do it at. I think the crucial thing is getting people into it at an early age, so that’s the philosophy of our HOY kids' bikes. We're aiming to get them as light and fun to ride and enjoyable as possible. A lot of kids’ bikes are pretty clunky and heavy and it can put children off trying them.
"Whatever you do, give it your all, do you best and get the most out of it – that’s the one thing I'll always try to encourage."
Do you think the UK has a bit of an obesity problem because we're generally not getting out enough and being active?
We could certainly be doing more as a nation to keep fit and healthy and well, and anything that encourages people to exercise and be more active than they are now is a fantastic thing. The increase in cycling participation has been really impressive over the past few years. It’s just gone up and up and up, and hopefully that will have an impact on the nation’s health across the board.
It’s easier in the spring and summer, but how can dads get the kids outside and active when it's cold and wet outside?
It’s all about being dressed for the occasion, you’ve just got to be appropriately kitted out and then you can enjoy it no matter what. Look at skiing and winter sports – people still do them because they’re appropriately dressed, so it’s just about making sure your bike is fit for purpose, you’ve got lights on, you’ve got warm clothing and you can still have lots of fun at any time of year, whatever the weather.
Is cycling something the family can do together?
Absolutely. I think it’s one of the few things you can do as a family and genuinely everyone enjoys it… And there are so many places you can do it; it doesn’t have to be on the road, it can be a nice quiet park, off-road, BMX tracks, velodromes; you can cycle anywhere. It is definitely a family activity, and I’m looking forward to when Callum’s old enough that he can ride with me.
Do you hope Callum will follow you into sport?
You know what, I really don’t care what he gets into. I just hope that whatever he chooses, whatever he enjoys – whether it’s sport or the arts or music or academia – whatever he wants to do doesn’t matter, it’s just about him enjoying it and getting the most out of life. Not everyone can be madly into sport, but whatever he shows an interest in, I’m sure Sarra and I will support him. Whatever you do, give it your all, do you best and get the most out of it – that’s the one thing I'll always try to encourage.