Stars align for Hoy ahead of Laureus Challenge 2022
Chris Hoy is set to embark on a 100km trek through the deserts, mountains and valleys of the UAE. He will hike all day and sleep at night under a blanket of stars, as part of his participation in the Laureus Challenge 2022, presented by Sierra Space. And it is in those late hours, as he gazes at the night sky, that he may reflect on where it all started.
Hoy’s cycling obsession began after watching a scene in the science fiction film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial when a group of young BMX riders take off into the sky. Space is a major theme of the 1982 classic and the film’s iconic poster features an airborne BMX rider silhouetted against the moon.
Hoy – a six-time Olympic gold medallist and now a member of the Laureus World Sports Academy – said: “People assume that the spark, the inspirational moment that got me into cycling would come from watching the Tour de France or the Olympics, but it was E.T. when I was six years old.
“I’d never seen a BMX bike before and that was my first exposure to it. Bob Haro, the godfather of BMX, was involved in choreographing the chase scenes and helping [director] Steven Spielberg make it look authentic.
“Bob heard I’d been talking about E.T. and sent me a direct message on Instagram then sent on a T-shirt. I’ve got young kids now and you just realise that at any opportunity something could happen that might spark a passion.”
As an E.T. fan and amateur stargazer, Hoy is excited about the Challenge, which takes place from November 14-19. Leading commercial space company Sierra Space are the title sponsors of the event and there will be an inspiring talk from an astronaut around the evening campfire.
“I love stargazing,” he said. “I did a documentary about Colin McRae, who was the World Rally Champion back in the 90s and was a real Scottish hero of mine. We went out to Morocco with his dad, Jimmy McRae, to drive a Paris-Dakar rally car in the sand dunes.
“At night we built this campfire and then, all of a sudden, we looked up. And it’s the most spectacular thing to see the night sky with this blanket of stars. It took my breath away. It puts things into perspective. You realise how small and insignificant you are. I do love just looking up in the sky.”
The trek starts in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve before climbing into the Hatta Mountains and crossing the picturesque wadis (valleys) of the Sharjah Emirate. Hoy has sought some specialist advice ahead of the challenge.
“I spoke to Annabelle Bond, the adventurer and explorer who will be on the trek, too,” he said. “She gave me some advice on footwear so I’ve got a pair that she recommended and I’m trying to wear them as much as I can. From dropping the kids off at school, I can go for a walk up into the hills.
“Physically, I cycle and I still do a bit in the gym, so I think I’ve got a reasonable base level of fitness, but to be on your feet for 11-12 hours a day, walking in sand in the heat and not having the luxury of going back to your house or hotel and having a nice warm shower – that will be tough, but I’m really excited about it.”
Hoy will be joined on the trek by fellow Laureus Academy Members Bryan Habana, the South African rugby icon, Australian cricket legend Steve Waugh and Nawal El Moutawakel, the former 400m hurdler who made history in 1984 when she became the first Moroccan, African and Muslim woman to win an Olympic gold medal. Hoy is looking forward to mixing with the Academy Members and 100 Challengers who will all take part in raising funds for Laureus Sport for Good.
“One of the best things about being part of the Academy is meeting these amazing people,” said Hoy. “You get to know them as people not just as sporting stars. I’ve met Bryan and Steve before and I’m sure they’ll be well prepared
“To meet new people and to hear their stories, where they’ve come from and what’s inspired them to want to come to support Laureus is very exciting. These are once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
“I think it is going to be challenge for all of us, but we’re raising money and it’s not supposed to be a jolly. We’re going out there with a purpose in mind.”