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M

I

N joyful strains then let us sing. Advance Australia fair.”

The Aussie national anthem ricocheted around the roaring sound system of Vojens after they had sensationally clinched the Speedway of Nations.

Seconds later the champagne sprayed, glistening like microscopic jewels in the floodlights and cascading down on Jack Holder, Max Fricke and Jason Doyle.

But, clutching the precious medal around his neck, the emotionally-charged moment had reduced team boss Mark Lemon to tears.

In true essence of that anthem, these were joyful strains for Lemon.

Unknown to anyone witnessing the pure elation in green and gold, he had lost his father Graeme just 48 hours earlier.

‘Grazer’, ‘GJ’ or ‘Lemo’ had fought Prostate Cancer and Parkinson’s but after a 13-year battle with illness finally succumbed aged 83.

For Lemo junior, it was the most gutwrenching rollercoaster of sentiments on the biggest of stages.

In a frank interview, he told me: “Was it the pinnacle of my career, as a manager yes. My career as a rider and manager are light years apart.

“It’s such a hard one for me to say, to be called a World Champion is great. But at the time I was pretty much dying inside.

“It’s been coming for such a long time, you are waiting for that ‘phone call to come. And it came on the eve of the Speedway of Nations 2.

“We were out for a meal the night before on the Thursday. My mum rang and I left the room and that was when I found out.

“I kept it to myself. As a professional sportsman you have to put yourself in zones. The harsh reality is that I’ve probably been conditioned to being like that for over 30 years.

“I guess I had some skills in that department to get myself through that situation. I had to draw on all my experiences. I can’t really explain how I did it or why I did it.

“Maybe the Speedway of Nations was the biggest and best distraction I could have had, I don’t know.

“From the moment I had that ‘phone call, I didn’t sleep that night. I was on the ‘phone to my family.

“But I just had to put the face on. There was a bunch of kids so excited to be in the Speedway of Nations, I just had to focus on them. I just had to carry on like I would do normally.”

After the most mentally bruising 48 hours, Holder and Fricke crossed the finishing line to beat Great Britain and bring home the World Cup for the first time in 20 years.

The Wizards of Oz wildly whooped it up at the pit gate but for Lemon it was clearly more than just a golden moment.

He added: “I said at the time sometimes the stars align for you. I believe that. Sometimes things happen for a reason. I’m not a religious person.

“But it was uncanny and it gave me the inner strength to carry on, this is why I’m here and this is what you do.

“I don’t know if anything somewhere was pulling strings but on that night everything just fell into place.

“I seemed to make the right decisions and the boys rode exceptionally well.

“From when the boys went over the finish line it was just a rollercoaster of emotions.”

Lemon also discovered just days later that his career in motorsport was down to his dad’s love of the speedway - the family hadn’t been involved in the racing until that point.

He added: “It’s really interesting because we did my dad’s eulogy and I learnt the background.

“When I was a kid we used to go to watch

Billy Wigzell the speedcar champion, a household name in Australia back in the day.

“Dad used to pack up the kids and leave me at home, because I was too young to go. I didn’t know that but my dad was always keen on speedway.

“My dad then took me down to watch Phil Crump and I was mad into bikes.

“We had no background in the sport but he was fond of it and that’s why I got involved in junior speedway.”

Now that the champagne has dried up and the trophy is safely tucked away in a cabinet gathering dust, the full poignance of victory is sinking in for the Aussies.

Two decades is a long time without success for a country that has been rolling talent off a prolific speed star conveyer belt for over 30 years.

After decades of sporadic individual glory, Todd Wiltshire and Leigh Adams got the ball

BITTER SWEET

2 speedway star September 10, 2022

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