What is Ove Fundin's greatest moment in Speedway?
It wasn’t any of his five world titles.
It wasn’t having a statue of himself unveiled in his hometown of Tranas. Nor was it having his sport’s World Cup trophy named after him.
Those incredible accolades may well have filled the apologetically humble Ove Fundin with huge pride. But none, perhaps surprisingly, ranked as his favourite.
“People always ask what my biggest achievement or finest memory was,” smiled the 85-year-old Swedish icon as he leant forward in his chair.
“Everyone expects me to answer my first (world final) win at Wembley (1956) or something like that. But it wasn’t. My greatest moment was in the county of Östergötland, which is the next county up here (from Tranas), that includes Linköping and Nyköping. In the 1950s and even before it was the centre of all Swedish speedway.
“They had all the best riders and in that very first year of me riding, when it came to the championship for the county, I – as a novice almost – went out and won it. I beat the Swedish champion, a couple of guys that had even been to Wembley and were riding in England. I went out there and beat them and that was the first time I felt very proud of myself and happy with life.”
That feeling of delight and achievement continued throughout Fundin’s career as he became the man many still deem to have been the greatest rider of all time.
The Flying Fox, as he was known, may have won one less world championship crown than Tony Rickardsson and Ivan Mauger but his run of 11 successive podium finishes in a row, coupled with a dizzying string of notable successes in other prestigious team and individual competitions, proves his legendary status will never be questioned.
Yet the Swede remains quick to brush off suggestions of his immortality and was taken aback by our desire to travel from England to Sweden to spend the day with him. Sure, Fundin enjoyed looking back for Influx and talking about the past – who doesn’t? Yet it wasn’t a doddle for him to be involved in a long day’s filming. Far from it. However, nothing about the project – from initial idea to live date – was too much hassle for the Scandinavian who was awarded the freedom of Norwich in 2006 following nine glittering years riding for the city’s now-defunct club in the 1950s and 60s.
Can you drive for an over an hour to meet us at Vetlanda at 9 am so we can film at their track? Sure. Can you drive us back to your home afterwards? No problem. Can you spend all afternoon with us at your house? Of course. He may well be speedway royalty, but it was Fundin who treated us like kings, racing to the bar to beat us and his son to pay for a delicious lunch as we took a well-deserved break.
Even at 85, the serial winner remains almost as sharp as he was at the tapes during his heyday – still driving across Europe regularly and getting plenty of exercise to no doubt ensure his memory and wit remains in as impressive shape as his body.
The Norwich Stars legend remains humbled that he had an army of supporters who travelled England, and Europe, to roar him on. But in those halcyon days, Fundin was simply the golden-haired superstar who put a smile on so many of their faces – and he’s still doing exactly the same thing to those and four of his newest fans from Norfolk almost 50 years after hanging up his kevlars.
l-r Louis Brindle, Gavin Caney, Ove Fundin, Nick Curtis, Alex Thaxton
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