With the Winter Olympics over and the Winter Paralympics drawing to a close the countdown cycle is onto the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics - now just 861 days away (not that we are counting)! We caught up with 7 time Olympian and 3 time Olympic Eventing Team gold and individual silver medallist Andrew Hoy to ask him just what makes being an Olympian so special….
Was there anything you had to give up early on in your career to fulfil your dreams?
Sleep! I don’t believe I sacrificed anything because this is what I wanted to do. My family were in farming so that was long hours but the only thing I wanted to do was ride so I used to get up at 4am to ride the horses before I started working. I did go to parties with my friends but I just left early so I could be in bed by 12am.
How do you balance work / life?
Life and work are the same thing for me. Anyone who is successful or has dreams is always thinking about how to fulfil them. I was once told to put a picture on my fridge so that every time I open it I see my goal. Seeing your goal, helps you strive towards it every day until you reach it.
Do you have to follow a strict diet leading up to the Olympics?
Not really, I try to be conscious of the amount I eat all year round and choose healthy options most of the time. I’m naturally a very structured person and so that’s just part of who I am.
How many hours do you spend in the gym or riding to get your fitness at the level it needs to be at to compete?
Well I ride for 6 hours a day if not more. I also have a personal trainer and do an hour with them, life being so busy he has to fit in with me and be flexible but it works really well when I’m home. Sport is so much more professional now, you can’t afford to be half fit.
How often do you get to go on holiday?
Each year? Or do you mean in my lifetime? I can count that on my fingers. I travel a lot but it’s pretty much always horse related, when I go home to Australia to visit family and friends I always teach clinics too.
Is competing at the Olympics different to competing at Badminton or Burghley?
Yes because you’re riding for a team but unlike other sports you’re still ‘playing’ on your own. The team is about getting the best individual performances from every team member for the best total result. Teams working together to share information, ideas and advice do best. You need to be open and athletes aren’t naturally always open to sharing but you do profit as a team from sharing with each other.
What’s your favourite phase?
I enjoy them all, each need the same attention to detail and I still get a thrill out of getting a PB in each phase but the cross country is what makes our sport so unique.
What’s the most rewarding thing about being an Olympic athlete?
Winning gold medals! If you get to even compete it is a platform that no matter who you show a medal to they understand what level you are at. There’s a global understanding. I have tremendous pride in being part of a community where you’ve been chosen to represent your country. People always want to see and hold an Olympic medal and after ask what sport do you play? Being an Olympic champion is never in the past it, never “expires” like other titles do, becoming a “former Champion”
Where do you keep your medals?
Well they used to be in a Sainsburys bag but finally they’ve been repositioned and framed. They are in in my private office at home for only me to see - I see them as motivational items, a reminder of what is still possible to achieve.
What sacrifices have your family had to make & how have they supported you?
My parents don’t watch me ride much, they have been to 2 of my 7 Olympics but regardless of what I do there is constant love and support, they’ve given me the structure and respect I’ve needed to succeed. Of course my wife Steffi is instrumental in the admin which leaves me to concentrate on the horses. We definitely work as a team and play to each other’s strengths. It’s a lifestyle as it’s our common goal and interest. Now I’m a father I’m looking forward to watching Philippa grow up in the eventing community, it’s such a great environment for kids to grow up.
Do you have a favourite Olympic moment?
Sydney! Winning 2 medals, one of which was my third consecutive gold, in front of my home crowd in my country was a total dream come true!
What’s it like being backstage at the Olympics?
The dining hall is a fascinating place full of athletes and officials -so many people of different shapes and sizes. You don’t know who most of them are but you often just sit and wonder who they are and what they’ve been through to get there. I once watched someone eat an absolute mountain of food and was amazed so I asked him what sport he did – he was an official! But I believe Michael Phelps used to eat 8000 calories a day and struggled to eat so much. It’s a big shock for athletes when they retire as so much of the life style changes. The longevity of competing with horses is pretty unique.
How have the Olympics changed your life?
I guess in Australia I’m a household name in the way Steve Redgrave is here but I wouldn’t say that’s changed the person I am. My parents gave me structure in my life and taught me respect which is so important no matter what you do in life. When I go home I love to teach and give back to the sport which has given me so much. I’m an ambassador for the Wobbleberry Challenge and my chosen charity to support is Right To Play which helps enable children worldwide to a right to sport and playtime.
What do you think of your chances for Tokyo 2020 and what would it mean to you to bring home an individual or team gold for Australia?
I have a fantastic very strong team of young horses at the moment and with the right programme, development and performances through the grades 5 of them are talented enough and will be at the right age to earn a spot. I’d have an unbelievable sense of pride and self-achievement to stay at that level long enough and continue to be successful. An even bigger dream come true!
Andrew has a fabulous string of young horses and has a full on schedule of training and events over the next 861 days to prepare. We’ll be following his journey along the way and wish him the best in his preparation for Tokyo 2020.