SIR Steve Redgrave and Sir Chris Hoy were falling over themselves to proclaim the other as the greatest British Olympian in history this week after Hoy moved clear of Redgrave in terms of gold medals.

The cyclist has won the kierin and the sprint at London 2012 to take his Games gold tally to six.

On top of that he also has a silver medal compared to Redgrave’s five golds and a bronze.

But while Redgrave insists the total humber of medals defines the greatest, Hoy says Redgrave’s run of five golds in five consecutive Games is the more notable feat.

He said: “In terms of Steve Redgrave, he's still the greatest. Just because you have six gold medals doesn't mean to say you're better than he is. He did it at five consecutive Games."

Hoy’s first Olympics was Sydeny in 2000, when he came away with silver.

He said: “It's when you realise how much goes into those four years, all the training, the sacrifices, the lows, the injuries, there's so many things that can go wrong.

"For him to do that five times, he's the greatest. Until someone does it six times consecutively, he's the greatest."

Redgrave, who was there at the Velodrome to congratulate Hoy after his unprecedented sixth gold, sees it differently though.

He said: “There was only one emotion as I watched Sir Chris Hoy ride past my record of five gold medals in the Olympic Velodrome, and that was of pure joy. Not a bone in my body wished that he would fail to win a sixth gold just to protect my place in history. I desperately hoped that he would do it. In fact, I was sure he would.

“In my eyes, you are defined as an Olympian as much by the number of medals you have as the quality of those medals. Chris’s distinction, with six golds and a silver in his last three Games, is that he has both.

“The only list I am at the top of now is the one for consecutive golds for five Olympics, although clearly that is still very important to me.

“But I feel privileged to say that I was there on the night that Chris, who has become a good friend of mine in recent years, made history.

“I have come to know Chris very well, since he was a champion rower in his younger days, learning all about the rigours of training when he might not have wanted to.

“Such a huge amount of expectation had been placed on him in the build-up to London 2012, after his triple triumph in Beijing, but I was always convinced that he would win at least one gold.”

But if longevity is the key factor, Hoy could emulate Redgrave in Brazil in four years time.

Hoy said: “I'm 99.9 per cent sure I won't be competing in Rio. How can you top this?”

But Redgrave, who famously retired as he got out of the boat in 1996 only to go one more time four years later, said: “We've all said things about retirement in the heat of the moment – I carried on for the next four years after saying that.

“Chris has the capability, he’s still a young man in my eyes. He's on the top of the world at the moment and he can carry on for the next four years if he wanted to.”