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Images from the 2016 British Speedway Grand Prix

Chris Holder – Back from the brink

Nov 242016

6th of October 2012.
That’s a date that will stick in the mind of Speedway star Chris Holder for as long as he lives. He had just shocked the world to become the youngest ever Speedway World Champion and life couldn’t get any better.

That was the problem. Chris had climbed the mountain and as the saying goes, what goes up must come back down. After three years of injury hell, personal issues and a battle to regain his form, CH is finally back where he belongs – in the upper echelons of the sport. He finished fourth in this year’s Speedway Grand Prix series and won his first Grand Prix in four years in his home country of Australia when he took gold in Melbourne in October.

It’s been a long road back for one of the most exhilarating riders in the sport and we caught up with him as he toasted the end of a long, hard but ultimately fulfilling season.

First of all Chris, how would you sum up your 2016 season?

It was a pretty solid season for me really, I was quite consistent. I started off really good with a podium in the first GP and that was cool because it had been a long time since I made the top three, so that kicked me off in the right way. I only really had two bad GP’s, Cardiff and Malilla, and they cost me in the long run really because without those two I could’ve been right in the mix at the end of the year. Overall I’m happy with how it went, I needed a good run and I got it this year.

How tough have the last few years been?

To be honest, the last four years have been crap. I won the world title in 2012 and then in July 2013 I had some bad injuries that wiped me out for a long time and it felt like I went from the top to the bottom real fast. I missed almost a whole season and then even when I finally came back I had a lot of metal in my foot and it wasn’t comfy at all. Then I broke my wrist and hurt my neck and that set me back again, I just didn’t feel like myself. I had a good run last year with no injuries but then Darcy (Ward’s) accident happened and that was pretty much as low as I could go to be honest. I had a lot of trouble outside of racing but then when Darcy had his crash, I’ve never felt that low in my life. That was tough to take.

Darcy is your best friend so how did his career-ending accident affect you?

It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen, it was just horrible. I’ve got a little boy, Max, and having him around scared me to be honest. You sit and think ‘it could be me’ and when you’ve got a child it changes everything.
After Darcy’s accident I went home to Australia and it was really tough to accept what had happened to him but I never got a rest from it. Obviously because we’re such good mates everyone wanted to know what was happening, asking me loads of questions and I just never got away from it. I was sick of talking about it because it hurt. I had a few moments where I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to keep racing, you’ve just seen your best mate have his life changed like that and you wonder if you want to still take those risks.
It became a motivation for me though, sometimes in the tough times I sit and think that he’d give his nuts to be where I am, I wanted to give him an interest and maybe a chance to live it through me. We talk all the time and talked a lot during the season, he’s always in my corner and pushing me along and that’s a motivation for me now. I want to do well for him and Max now, as well as myself.

Did you ever doubt you’d get back to your best level at all?

Yeah every week, every time I get on a bike (laughs)! When it’s tough you scratch your head and wonder what you’re doing differently, and I think maybe I just got a bit lazy at times. The injuries affected me a lot physically and mentally and it was a real battle for me to get over that, but I didn’t put in enough work really. I needed to get fitter and stronger and for a long time it seemed so far away, so to get back to something close to my best this year has been a huge relief really.

You won the world title early into your career, was it hard to win it so young? Did you lose motivation?

Do you know, up until 2012 everything had just gone perfectly in my career, it was all sweet, I had no big injuries, no dramas, I was just having a great time. Me and Darcy raced and travelled together and it all seemed a bit too good to be true – and I suppose it was. Everything got serious after that and it wasn’t just about riding my bike and having fun any more. Sub-consciously you do lose a bit of motivation I think, there were so many times in the months after I won the title where I was sat in an airport or in the van and you think ‘I got what I always wanted, what more is there to do?’ and it took the wind out of my sail a bit, I achieved what I set out to achieve when I started racing, so it was hard to pick myself up and go again.

You won your first Grand Prix in four years in front of your home fans in Australia in the final event of the season, talk us through the feeling you had when you crossed the line?

That was amazing, I can’t even describe it. I had a lot of finals this year but there was only two or three times where I really thought I had a chance to win it and it never happened, and then going to Aussie I just wanted to have a good night and score a lot of points. When I won I could’ve just done laps and laps until I ran out of fuel, I was screaming under my helmet and I just wanted to keep going all night. There was lots of relief, I’ve had a lot of stress and a lot of personal stuff going on and I just exploded with relief, to finally crack it again and to do it in Aussie, in front of loads of my family and friends, Darcy was there, it was a better feeling than sex! Honestly, it almost felt better than winning the world title. I’ve had so much going on that to win there, just an unbelievable feeling.