Chris Hoy insists that “comparison is the thief of joy” as he gave a passionate plea to the next generation to stop worrying about what other people are doing.
Speaking on the latest episode of Eurosport’s The Breakdown podcast, Hoy joined hosts Orla Chennaoui and Greg Rutherford to bemoan our culture of comparison.
Hoy won six Olympic gold medals across three Games, a feat that made him Team GB’s most successful Olympian in history before Jason Kenny won his seventh title in the Tokyo velodrome last summer to surpass him.
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However, he admitted that he was plagued with thoughts about what his rivals and team-mates were doing during his golden years – and said he was concerned for the current generation due to the growth of social media.
“Comparison is the thief of joy,” said Hoy. “Looking at what other people are doing, looking at their performances, consistently measuring yourself against them and looking at what they're doing in their lives. Instagram, fear of missing out – comparing yourself to other people is the worst thing you can do.
“And I did it. I used to do it in training. We had a little training book that the coach would write the times in. It was a stopwatch and a book and they would write the times down. And in the team you'd have guys like Jason Queally, Craig MacLean, Jamie Staff, Jason Kenny in later years, Ross Edgar – real world class sprinters who were your team-mates, but you were competing against them.
“They were fighting for a place – maybe one spot in the Olympics amongst you. So you're constantly competing. In the early years, I would be looking at their times. I finished my effort, come over and look at my time and then compare it to theirs.
“You might think that's natural. But the point is… what if they're having a good day or a bad day? Maybe he's got a cold, maybe he's got an injury, maybe he's not feeling that great. Or he's faster than me – maybe he's having an amazing day, or he's rested or whatever, you just don't know what's going on.”

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Hoy, who was part of Discovery’s coverage of the inaugural UCI Track Champions League, is the poster boy for Britain’s renewed affinity with the Olympics.
The 46-year-old benefited from the funding poured into national sport in the wake of the harrowing Atlanta Games in 1996, where GB returned with just a single gold medal.
Hoy won silver on his Games debut at Sydney 2000 before going on a gold rush in Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
But he admits that if everyone goes into sport wanting to win, it will leave the vast majority unhappy.
“To me, the only person you should compare yourself to is yourself yesterday, and seeing if you're making progress.
“My wee boy Callum does taekwondo. He's been doing it for about two or three months. He goes twice a week, enjoys it. He's not super sporty. He's not really mad keen on sport. But this is one thing he showed an interest in.
“So we take him there twice a week. I said, ‘Oh, you did really well today’. And he said, ‘Daddy, I'm really bad at taekwondo. I'm not as good as so and so’.
“I said, ‘But you're better than you were last week, aren’t you?’ And he's like, ‘Yeah’.
“‘You're kicking higher than you were? You're learning the moves. You can count to five in Korean’. He's like ‘Oh yeah, I can’.
“But it's about comparing yourself to where you were. If you're making progress, and everybody improves at different rates, particularly when we're kids.

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“So as a kid I used to play rugby. I used to do other sports. In rugby in particular, I was probably the second smallest in the team, I played standoff, I was fly half. And I was the kicker. So I used to take the kick-off, and I would restart the match, kick the ball, and I would have this uncanny ability of landing in the arms of the biggest guy who would then run straight back at me – this giant of six foot tall, 12 year old with a moustache.
“Think about this guy who thinks ‘I'm great at rugby, because I score four tries every match’.
“I’m the star player of the team. Then over the years, everyone else catches up, he might have just hit puberty at the age of 12, or whatever.
“All of a sudden, he hasn't had to learn all the skills. He's been so strong physically and bigger and just has that advantage but he doesn't enjoy rugby because he's not scoring four tries a game anymore. He gives up.
“So to me, it's trying to get the message across to the kids or to my kids, or anyone that listens, that you just need to be better than you were yesterday. Look at your own progression. Don't worry about anyone else.
“If you're still improving, that's all you can ask for. Enjoy the process and enjoy what you do. Because what's the point otherwise?”
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The Breakdown series 1 episodes

  • May 3 - Mark Cavendish
  • May 10 - Jamie Chadwick
  • May 17 - Sir Chris Hoy
  • May 24 - Jess Learmonth
  • May 31 - Robert Rinder
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