Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Speedway racing: Swede riding purely for the thrills

Western Springs' open corners could draw the best out of Antonio Lindback's talents in the world speedway series' opening round. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Western Springs' open corners could draw the best out of Antonio Lindback's talents in the world speedway series' opening round. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Sweden's Antonio Lindback is the speedway rider with a dreadlocked X Games look and an unusual, remarkable backstory to match.

If speedway wants wider appeal, then the 26-year-old is the obvious spearhead to break boundaries.

Indeed, his sporting hero is Tiger Woods and Lindback is the first black rider in speedway's highest echelon. A gifted rider promoted as a future world champion, he took a brief break four years ago because of personal problems. He has yet to win a world series grand prix in 44 attempts so fans are eagerly waiting for his breakthrough moment.

Lindback was abandoned as a tiny tot on the streets of his native Brazil, ended up in a San Paulo orphans' home and was adopted as a 3-year-old by Swedish parents after they spent six months getting to know him.

As legend has it, all the forgotten baby was left with was a tag announcing: "My Name is Antonio", although Lindback indicated to the Herald he wasn't completely sure about that.

Nor is there hard evidence of his exact age or birthplace, even though official guides list a date and pinpoint Rio de Janeiro.

"I believe I came from the highlands of Brazil ... I am very glad of the life I have had in Sweden," he said in sometimes hard-to-decipher English while sitting at his team tent amid the bustle at Western Springs.

"I know nothing of my [birth] family and naturally I would like to know more and especially if I have brothers and sisters. But I lead a busy life and haven't looked into that."

Lindback was adopted by Monica Hermansson Lindback, a brilliant Swedish skiing champion, and her husband Ola, a boss at a stainless steel plant.

Sweden is one of speedway's few strongholds. But Antonio, brought up as an only child, does not mention any rider when asked about his inspirations. He was 10 when his mother, a teacher, took him on her class' visit to speedway, and the kid was immediately entranced.

Lindback is also a fantastic skier - he can do the double back flip - but speedway won over the possibility of being a professional on the snow.

This will be his eighth season in what has become a 12-event world speedway series usually conducted exclusively on European tracks.

Western Springs, with open corners, could draw the best out of the talented Lindback in this year's opening round.

"I'm different," Lindback says, explaining that he is motivated by the racing thrill rather than mere victory hunts. Promoters wanting to spread speedway globally will hope he can enjoy both.

- NZ Herald

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