Ole Olsen (speedway rider)

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Ole Olsen
Ole Olsen Intercontinental Final.jpg
Personal information
Nationality Denmark Denmark
Date of birth (1946-11-16) November 16, 1946 (age 68)
Place of birth    Haderslev, Denmark
Nickname The Great Dane
Current club information
Career status Retired
Career history
Newcastle Diamonds
Wolverhampton Wolves
Coventry Bees
1967-1969
1970-1975
1976-1983
Individual honours
World Champion
Danish Champion

Nordic Champion

British League Riders Champion
Long Track World Champion
Golden Helmet of Pardubice (CZE)

Australian Champion
NSW State Champion (Aust)
British-Nordic-American Champion
Intercontinental Champion
Yorkshire Television Trophy
1971, 1975, 1978
1967, 1968, 1969, 1970,
1971, 1972, 1973
1971, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977,
1978
1972, 1976, 1977, 1978
1973
1970, 1971, 1972, 1975
1977, 1979, 1980
1976
1972
1974
1978
1977
Team honours
World Team Cup Winner
World Pairs Champion
British League Champion
British League Pairs Champion
British League Cup
1978, 1981, 1983
1979
1978, 1979
1978
1981

Ole Olsen (born 16 November 1946 in Haderslev, Denmark)[1] is a former international motorcycle speedway rider.

Olsen won the Speedway World Championship three times, in 1971, 1975, and 1978. He also won the World Long track Championship in 1973. In 1979 Olsen won Speedway World Pairs Championship with Hans Nielsen. In 1978, 1981 and 1983 Olsen was the captain of Denmark's winning Speedway World Team Cup teams, while also finishing second in 1979 and 1982. Denmark could only place third in the 1980 World Team Cup Intercontinental Final and missed a place in the Final held at the Olympic Stadium in Wrocław, Poland, the same track where he made his World Individual Final debut in 1970.

Olsen's success greatly helped popularize the sport in Denmark which led to him building and opening a track at Vojens, the 15,000 capacity Vojens Speedway Center, which has held many Danish Championships as well as the 1988 and 1994 Speedway World Finals (1994 being the last under the old single meeting format) while it hosted the Speedway Grand Prix of Denmark from 1995 until 2002, after which the Danish GP was moved to the larger capacity Parken Stadium in Copenhagen.[2]

Career summary[edit]

Olsen was taught to ride a speedway bike in 1966 by his friend and great rival of the 1970s, New Zealand's Ivan Mauger. He first rode in the UK for the Newcastle Diamonds in the British League from 1967 until 1969 (Mauger was also with Newcastle at the time). He then moved to the Wolverhampton Wolves, where he remained from 1970 until then end of the 1975 season. In 1976 he joined the Coventry Bees where he enjoyed the most success, winning two British League titles as well as the 1981 League Cup. Olsen has also won the British League Riders' Championship in 1972, 1976, 1977 and 1978.

Olsen was close to winning two further World Championship titles. In the 1972 final at London's famous Wembley Stadium, whilst in second place of his first heat he fell and failed to score. Despite winning his other four heats, he was beaten by Mauger and Sweden's Bernt Persson.

Ole won his second World Championship in 1975 with a 15 point maximum at Wembley. The very next night he won the Danish Championship in Vojens. Unbelievably though, Olsen failed to qualify for the 1976 World Final in Poland when he could only manage 12th in the Intercontinental Final at Wembley. He only scored 6 points in the IC Final after being excluded from his first race, suffering engine failure in the very next race, and only managing three second places in his next three rides.

In 1977 at the Ullevi stadium in Göteborg where he had won his first championship in 1971, Australian rider John Boulger fell on a rain soaked track whilst Olsen was leading. In the re-run of the heat, Olsen was beaten by the eventual winner Mauger again, though he had to defeat England's Michael Lee in a run-off to finish third in the championship (reigning World Champion Peter Collins finished second behind Mauger).

Ole Olsen won his final Individual World Championship in 1978 at Wembley scoring 13 points from his five rides. He finished one point clear of Englishman Gordon Kennett, and two points in front of third placed Scott Autrey from the United States. He was involved in a run-off for third place in 1979 at the Silesian Stadium in Katowice, Poland. Olsen finished last in the run-off won by Michael Lee from American Kelly Moran and Australian champion Billy Sanders. His last place saw him finally classified 6th in his title defence. 1979 was the last of a record 6 World Championships won by Ivan Mauger.

Olsen was only a reserve rider for the 1980 World Final at the Ullevi Stadium (won by Michael Lee) and did not get to ride on the night. He won his place as a reserve by beating American Scott Autrey in a run-off for 11th place at the InterContinental Final at White City in London after both riders finished on 6 points. He qualified for what many thought would be his last World Final in 1981 at Wembley, and ended up finishing second behind American Bruce Penhall (the first American World Champion since Jack Milne in 1937). Olsen had the distinction of winning the last ever Speedway World Final race held at the original Wembley Stadium. In a run-off for second place he beat fellow Dane and Coventry team mate Tommy Knudsen.[3]

After qualifying for 11 straight World Finals between 1980 and 1981 (he was a reserve in 1980), Olsen missed the 1982 World Final at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, his run ending when he scored only 4 points and finished 15th in the InterContinental Final at Vetlanda in Sweden. Olsen qualified for what would be his last Final in 1983 at the Motodrom Halbemond in Norden, West Germany. One of four Danes in the final along with Erik Gundersen, Hans Nielsen and reserve rider Peter Ravn, Olsen finished in 6th place with 10 points. Gundersen finished 4th, also on 10 points, while Nielsen's chance of finishing second or third ended when he was excluded from his final heat. Had Nielsen won or finished second in his final heat (won by West Germany's Egon Müller who won his only World Championship by being undefeated on the day), he would have forced a run-off with either second placed Aussie Billy Sanders or third placed Michael Lee.

Ole Olsen won the Danish Championship each year from 1967-1973, and won the Nordic Championship in 1971, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977, and 1978. He also won the InterContinental Final in 1978 and was the British-Nordic-American Champion in 1974. In 1976 he won the Australian Championship at the Liverpool Speedway in Sydney despite protests from other riders who did not believe he should have been allowed to ride as he was not Australian (however, the promoters saw his drawing power and included him in the field). Olsen defeated Australian legends Phil Crump and home town hero Billy Sanders to take the title. In Australia he also won the NSW State Championship in 1972, and in the same year finished second in the Australian Championship behind Jim Airey at the Rowley Park Speedway in Adelaide.

At the height of his success and popularity, Ole was the biggest sports star in Denmark, a country with no Olympic team at that time.

Retirement[edit]

Ole Olsen has stayed heavily involved in speedway since his retirement at the end of 1983. He has part-owned the Vojens Speedway Center since its opening in 1975. The speedway hosted the 1988 and 1994 World Finals, with the 1994 final being the last to be run in the traditional single meeting format before the advent of the Speedway Grand Prix (SGP) series in 1995. From 1995 until 2002, the Speedway Center hosted the Speedway Grand Prix of Denmark before it was moved to the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen. The Speedway has played host to the Speedway Grand Prix of Nordic since 2009.

The Speedway Center also hosted Round.2 of the three round 1986 Speedway World Team Cup Final, as well as the WTC Final in 1991 and 1998. It also hosted the Speedway World Cup Final (the WTC was re-named in 2001) in 2003, 2008 and 2010 and will again host the Final in 2015. It also holds the distinction of hosting the last ever World Pairs Championship Final in 1993. Vojens also hosted the inaugural European Under-21 World Championship in 1977. This championship was re-named as the World Under-21 Championship from 1988.

Currently (as of 2014), Olsen is the FIM Speedway Grand Prix race director. He also serves as the SGP Track Inspector and overseas track preparation for the series.

World final appearances[edit]

Individual World Championship[edit]

World Pairs Championship[edit]

World Team Cup[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Oakes, Peter; Mauger, Ivan OBE, MBE (1976). Who's Who of World Speedway. Studio Publications (Ipswich) Ltd. ISBN 0-904584-04-6. 
  2. ^ "History of Vojens". speedway.dk. Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  3. ^ Bamford, R. & Shailes, G. (2002). A History of the World Speedway Championship. Stroud: Tempus Publishing. ISBN 0-7524-2402-5