BLOG: ANTON HAS THE FUN FACTOR
Wednesday 15th August 2012, 07:00
When you take a look at ingredients list on the recipe for becoming an FIM Speedway Grand Prix winner, Antonio Lindback has always ticked most of the boxes, writes Paul Burbidge.
So what was missing? What helped him score his first gold medal at the FIM Fogo Italian Speedway Grand Prix on Saturday night? For me, it was the one word which defines who Lindback is and how he rolls – fun.
Whenever I interviewed the Rio de Janeiro-born man on his breathtaking ascent from Masarna and Poole Pirates’ promising newcomer to Grand Prix star between 2003 and 2006, everything the Swedish international did was about having fun.
He won the FIM Speedway World Cup with Sweden in 2004. He was mixing it with the world’s finest in the SGP series, and prior to that I watched him win back-to-back British Elite League titles with Poole in 2003 and 2004.
These early triumphs by a cheeky chappie from Brazil scared the sport’s old guard. This man was beating them and doing it for fun, in much the same way Chris Holder and Darcy Ward are at the moment.
But there comes a point where a great natural talent has to transform from the joker in the pack to the ace in the pack.
Ward will have to make that leap when he takes his place at the sport’s top table – and it only seems a matter of time before he does. Holder, meanwhile, has settled down with his partner Sealy and the birth of their son Max appears to have been the making of him. He still enjoys life, but the Sydneysider has still put himself firmly in the race for this year’s world title.
Lindback has two sons of his own, Valentino and Alessandro, and the 27-year-old has also had to do some settling down in recent years.
But since he briefly quit racing at the end of 2007 to overcome some personal demons, something was missing from Lindback. It was clear the talent was still there, he can still make his motors fly and there’s nothing wrong with his reactions from the tapes.
However, the spark which defined him had faded – the smile that won him legions of fans all over the world had gone missing.
Fortunately, he was reunited with it at the Italian SGP. This victory may not just transform his top eight hopes this season. It could transform his life. When we caught up after the meeting, I got the distinct impression Lindback had found the final, key ingredient he needs to join the ranks of speedway world champions.
All riders have a different key ingredient. Nicki Pedersen has built his reputation on intensity and ruthlessness, Jason Crump founded his on a burning desire to be the best and Tomasz Gollob made his name by doing things on a bike most people couldn’t or wouldn’t even dream of.
Lindback’s greatest asset is the fact he enjoys his job and does it his way. After his triumph, he told me, “I wanted to be myself.”
How many riders come out for the parade listening to their MP3 player and wearing headphones? It certainly raised a few eyebrows in Gorzow, but that’s Lindback – he has his own style.
The Avesta-based man has also proved he’s ready to have fun on the day of a Grand Prix by showing his considerable skills on the shooting range and go-kart track in events organised by his main backer Monster Energy.
Some riders need to get themselves as tense as a coiled spring to be focused and produce their best. But it doesn’t work for everyone.
The penny finally seems to have dropped for Lindback. There’s always a time to be serious and the Swedish international knows that. But this season we are seeing the return of the fun-loving Anton we all know and badly missed.
If he qualifies for the 2013 SGP series and takes his more laidback approach into the new season, those who tipped him as a world champion of the future eight or nine years ago may soon be proved right.
Even if it has taken Lindback longer than expected, the saying ‘better late than never’ would certainly ring true.
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- 19/06: SUNDSTROM'S SGP LIFELINE
- 19/06: KK'S DANISH DEAL
- 18/06: CHAMP PIPS PEDERSEN FOR PIRATES
- 18/06: HOLDER HANGING ON TO EMIL
- Play18/06: TAI'S RIDE
- 17/06: TOP THREE FOR TAI?
- 17/06: MIDDLO'S TEAM GB CHALLENGE
- 17/06: SGP QUALIFICATION DRAW