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Sarah Stevenson an inspiration to three times gold medalist Hoy.

CHRIS HOY last night revealed how Nicole Cooke inspired Great Britain’s Olympic gold rush.

Cyclist Cooke won the first of Team GB’s 19 golds in the road race back on August 10.

And Hoy, who powered into the record books with three more cycling golds in Beijing, insisted: “She gave everybody the kick-start they needed.

“With Nicole winning, it was a case of feeling that we had started now so we all had to keep the ball rolling.”

Scot Hoy, 32, who plans another assault on gold at London 2012, added: “There was pressure on the cycling team because of our success at the world championships in Manchester.

“Of course we all believed we would be able to repeat that success.

“But it was nice when the first gold went up there and she got a real big hug from everyone when she came back from the course.”

While Cooke was Hoy’s golden girl, he also handed out his own silver and bronze to Emma Pooley and Sarah Stevenson — two more of the heroes who brought back Britain’s 47-medal Great Haul of China.

Hoy, who won team sprint, individual sprint and keirin to become the first Brit to land three golds at one Olympics since swimmer Henry Taylor in 1908, said: “Emma finishing second in the cycling time trial made sure the team kept their momentum.

“It seemed to snowball after Emma’s ride with medals for GB coming out of everywhere, from every sport.

“She raced hard and put in a performance that made us all proud.

“Emma is always strong in the hills and the specific training she did for the race, believing she could always win a medal, paid off.”

Hoy added: “Another who impressed me with her attitude was Sarah Stevenson when she picked up a bronze and won Britain’s first ever medal in taekwondo.

“I’ve been to the same training camp in Manchester as Sarah and have always been impressed the way she goes about things.

“A terrible thing happened here with the scoring when she fought the China competitor Chen Zhang, obviously a big favourite with the locals.

“She looked to have clearly won that fight but only after a protest — and an unheard of reversal of the decision — — did she get through to the semi final.

“But with all that went on before, to get in the medal positions and take bronze was a fantastic achievement and one she thoroughly deserved.”

Hoy carried the flag for GB in last night’s closing ceremony — an event which also marked the handover to London for the 2012 Games.

By PAT SHEEHAN. Published in The Sun: 24 Aug 2008.