September 23 2014 Latest news:
Sunday, July 20, 2014
I first came across Greg Hanock when I was riding for Oxford during my second year competing in Great Britain.
I think it was 2004 or ‘05 and I was a bit new to everything. The first time I saw him he came up to me and spoke just like we had been friends for years. He’s open and he gave me a lot of help.
I haven’t stayed really close to him but he is one of the nicest guys about. You never really see him have a big fall out with anyone. He’s also one of them people you just know isn’t going to do anything dirty or dangerous. He rides hard, but fair.
Oxford was the only time he’s been my team-mate, apart from a brief spell in Poland, but he’s someone I’ve always looked up to. He’s always been and still is a brilliant gater, perhaps the best there is. He knows the game well as he’s been doing it for so many years. It’s a bit weird really how long he’s been competing for.
It’s odd to think that when I came into speedway, or even before I had, as a ‘kid’ he was there and even now I’m older he still is. That’s more than 20 years. It’s so strange to think that when some of us riders were growing up watching him he’s out there competing against us even now.
But more than that, he’s still there, he’s still winning, and still – even at the age of 44 – he’s one of the best riders in the world. It’s incredible.
I think very few people can do what he’s done. Tomasz Gollob is still riding but last year he quit the Grand Prix series. Gollob won the world title, his first, when he was 39. So he’s a bit inspirational. But Greg is still at the top, and winning GPs, like he did in Cardiff on Saturday.
What Greg did at the weekend and is still doing is quite an achievement. He’s definitely an inspiration to me and all of the riders out there. It gives us all hope. It just proves that if you work hard, are determined, and have that little bit of luck – which you need – anything is possible whatever age you are.
Greg’s longevity is a lot about his mentality. If you look after yourself, eat right, and put the work in, then you can keep going for a long time. But what Greg ensures he still does is have fun. He somehow manages to combine that with hard work. You need to have fun if you want to keep going. And that’s why Greg is still up there doing what he does.
What’s amazing is quite a few times this year he’s started GPs badly, picking up one or two points from his first few rides, and he’s still managed to turn it around and make a semi-final, final, and often a podium. He’s got so much experience. For most riders, when they’re having a bad night, they just have a bad night. But it’s not the case for Greg. He’s second in the standings, three points behind Tai Woffinden, and he’s definitely in the running. As for whether I’ll be riding at his age, I can’t really answer that right now. As long as I love riding, which I do, and I’m still enjoying it, I’ll try to keep going.
But there comes a time for everyone to give up. However, Tomasz, Greg and a few others have proven to us younger guys that you can still be doing it at the top level even when you’re 40 plus – which gives us all hope.
- Niels-Kristian Iversen was talking to Gavin Caney.
* To read Niels’ exclusive weekly column first, and in print – plus an update on Rory Schlein’s ‘Shave the Roo’ charity challenge, buy Wednesday’s paper. Visit www.edp24.co.uk/sport/kings-lynn-stars for an archive of Iversen’s articles.