Last time out we took a look at some of the riders whom I believe changed the sport of speedway and this time we are going to look at some more of them. By no means is this a closed book on the subject, and I'm in no doubt there will be an impending backlash due to my opinions.
So without further ado, here it is, part two, and for now at least, the final installment of this particular piece. However, who knows when we might revisit it in the next little while.
Poland has a seemingly endless stream of talented riders at it's disposal and with each passing season it seems to grow more and more, but the one man who started it all was Tomasz Gollob. A man with an unbelievable talent aboard a speedway bike and few would argue that in his prime there was no finer sight than watching Mr G in full flight. He possessed an uncanny ability to carry that bit more speed into the corners, the audacity to pull lines that simply weren't there and was the only rider to ride the straights like corners and the corners like straights. He carried the hopes of a nation on his shoulders during his entire career and was a genuine celebrity with a cult like following in his homeland. Quite simply put there was nobody like Tomasz Gollob and the icing on the cake had to be in 2010 when he finally landed the World Championship that had once threatened to allude him. Tragically Gollob was unable to finish his speedway career on his own terms following life changing injuries as a result of a Motocross accident. Mr G inspired a nation as well as a host of up and coming riders, many of whom are doing great things following in the tyre tracks of a bona fide icon of the sport.
The Danes have a long history of producing quality riders and Ole Olsen was perhaps the first of his kind. His trio of world titles in the 1970s popularized the sport in Denmark and was the catalyst of a golden era for the Danes. Ole and his level of professionalism, dedication and will to win paved the way for a Danish domination of the sport over much of the 80s. Ole Olsen was the original "Great Dane" but once he passed the baton to Hans Nielsen, he ran with it and took the sport to new heights. In terms of consistency and presentation there was perhaps nobody better than "The Professor" as he set new standards for others to follow. During a glittering and highly decorated career Nielsen was the type of rider who simply possessed that X factor and the success he achieved may never be replicated again. Even in his final season as a rider, Hans Nielsen would collect a medal ensuring he spent a career challenging at the very top of the sport.
It's fair to say that you don't win six world titles without being an innovator so Ivan Mauger and Tony Rickardsson simply have to be included in this list. Without question they are the most successful riders of their respective eras and the argument over which of them holds the distinction of the greatest ever will continue to roll on for generations. In the case of Mauger, he was a master of mind games and frankly he had many opponents beaten before the tapes rose. In truth, he probably had his races won before a wheel was even turned. A burning desire to be the best that had never been seen before, Mauger changed the sport of speedway, made it his own and made himself a household name in the process.
Tony Rickardsson may have claimed his first world title in the last ever World Final in 1994 but it was his sheer domination of the sport in the late 90s and early 2000s that cemented his place as one of speedway's all time greats. Throughout his career Rickardsson was always seen trying new things in terms of his bikes and everything he did seemed to give him that edge over his opponents. At a time when the temporary tracks in the Grand Prix were still in their infancy, Rickardsson adapted to them quicker than anyone else and his ability to stay cool under pressure and produce the goods when he absolutely needed to was simply unmatched. He remains the only man to win back to back Grand Prix world titles twice, firstly in 1998 and 1999 then again in 2001 and 2002. Simply put, Tony Rickardsson was the original blueprint upon which the modern Grand Prix rider is based upon.
Long story short...
Without Ken Le Breton, there would be no Patryk Dudek.
Without Peter Craven, there would be no Emil Sayfutdinov.
Without Bruce Penhall, there would be no Greg Hancock.
Without Tomasz Gollob, there would be no Bartosz Zmarzlik
Without Ole Olsen, there would be no Nicki Pedersen.
Without Tony Rickardsson, there would simply be no Grand Prix Speedway as we know it today.
There are countless others who are more than worthy of an inclusion of a list like this, and by no means is this a definitive list, it would be much longer. Maybe on another day, we will dive further into this and include the likes of Ove Fundin, Barry Briggs, Jason Crump and Leigh Adams, all of whom left their mark on the sport in their own unique ways during their respective eras.
Who do you think is worthy of an inclusion? Don't be afraid to elaborate and email me to let me know where I've gone wrong!
Of course if you wish to agree, or disagree with the Mythman, have an idea for a feature, or you simply want to chew the fat over all things speedway, you can email me Mythman666@hotmail.com. If your compliments, or indeed gripes can be contained to limited characters, you can send me a tweet @Mythman666.
Until next time...and there will be a next time.
Right I'll hae'tae gan