Cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy may have become a famous champion of the velodrome but Britain’s most successful Olympian headed back to where it all started, the BMX track, to ‘Just Imagine’ his life without National Lottery funding.
Hoy – who become national BMX champion at 14 – headed to Corby to pay a visit to the largest extreme sports park in the UK, Adrenaline Alley. The facility has received £127,000 from The National Lottery, enabling it to treble in size and Hoy dropped in to meet young BMX riders and show his support for The National Lottery’s new ‘Just Imagine’ campaign.
Hoy’s life was changed by The National Lottery as a 21-year-old student in his final year of university. Wondering what to do next, and without the funding boost, he admits his future haul of six Olympic gold medals would most likely never have happened.
Since The National Lottery’s investment in British cycling, the country has been rewarded with 85 medals in four Olympic Games and 38 Paralympics medals. But as well as currently funding 1,300 elite athletes, the money has also been distributed far and wide to improve facilities – including 128 BMX tracks.
“There is no doubt about it – National Lottery funding changed my life,” he said. “I would not be where I am now as an Olympic champion because I would have been forced to move down a different path without the money to keep me afloat.
“The funding given to me by the National Lottery was like winning the jackpot! With that money I was able to fully focus on training full-time and not worry about getting a job to pay my rent, bills and buy food. There is no way I could have focused so much on training if I’d had to hold down a full-time job.
“It is just amazing really that something like The National Lottery can benefit so many good causes such as up-and-coming athletes, grass roots sports clubs and facilities like the fantastic Adrenaline Alley. I was delighted to have been invited to come and show my support.”
Adrenaline Alley was founded by Mandy Young who was inspired by son John, who struggled through childhood due to a brain tumour but made friends through his love of skateboarding.
John was attacked by bullies, making Mandy determined to create a safe secure environment for young people to participate in urban activities. Adrenaline Alley is the legacy of John, who died aged 24 on September 17, 2010.
The funding for Adrenaline Alley is just part of the £31 billion the National Lottery has awarded to 420,000 arts, sport, heritage and voluntary projects since it launched in 1994, which is being highlighted in the nationwide ‘Just Imagine’ campaign.
Students from local schools were among those who met Sir Chris during his visit.
Jack Wooton, 13, of Lodge Park Academy, said: “I would never have thought in a million years that I would get the chance to meet Sir Chris Hoy, probably one of the best cyclists who ever lived coming into Corby to meet us.
“I got into BMX through watching the TV and Olympics so it is great to be able to come to places like Adrenaline Alley. Chris Hoy probably went to skate parks like this to make him better, not doing skills and things but just improving his cycling so it is really inspiring.”
Corby Business Academy teacher Nikki Clark said: “I understand that Sir Chris saw our students and the people from Adrenaline Alley on the National Lottery Live programme and wanted to meet our children.
“He talked with some of our students about how he started off on BMX bikes and progressed from there.
“He signed autographs and had his picture taken with them and had a look around the centre.”
During the visit the students also got the chance to use Adrenaline Alley’s scooters, trikes, skateboards and roller blades.
Student Harry Hinxman had quite a long chat with Sir Chris.
Harry said: “He told me he liked Adrenaline Alley and I asked to see his medals.
“I had a great time riding over the ramps – I did one of the bigger ones for the first time, which was great.”
Student Elle Smith added: “I had a chat with Sir Chris and I got his autograph.
“I enjoyed riding a bike while we were there – we had lots of fun.”
Hoy’s visit will be documented in a short online film to be released later this month as part of the National Lottery Just Imagine campaign. Released on Twitter (@lottogoodcauses #JustImagine) and Facebook, the film will make up one part of a series of 31 items to feature through January – one for each day and each £1 billion of funding.
The Just Imagine campaign will run through the first four months of the year, with further phases including an original animation movie telling the story of funding, and other “positively disruptive” digital techniques, according to a National Lottery spokesperson.
To enable people to learn more about National Lottery funded projects in their area, the National Lottery has launched a ‘Good Cause Finder’. To see projects in your area, or to find out more about Just Imagine January, visit www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk