IT’S amazing what a death-defying smash can do for your sense of perspective – even Chris Holder admits to finding the pragmatist within.
At 25 years of age, Australia’s speedway sensation felt unstoppable. The 2012 world champion flew round tracks all over the planet without a care. Thrills, global adulation and victory, it was all Holder had ever known.
The prospect of a blood-curdling crash, the type that shale sport stars risk on a daily basis, had never entered Holder’s consciousness.
That was until July 5, 2013. A date indelibly etched in the mind and on the body of a man whose outlook on life and sport would change forever.
Representing Poole Pirates at Coventry, Holder careered into the crash which kept him off his feet – let alone his bike – for months.
A broken shoulder, fractured and dislocated hip and shattered heel consigned the man of the moment to a wheelchair for the rest of the 2013 season. His first major injury came all too close to being his last.
Holder admits to experiencing the occasional second thought these days, even in the heat of battle. He insists nothing is worth the risk.
Then out of nowhere, a glint appears in his eyes. Out comes a daredevil streak which prompts a broad, wide-eyed grin that American speedway legend Greg Hancock would be proud of.
Holder can suppress the truth no longer – nothing would stop him going for the world title again.
“I saw injuries all the time but had a really good run myself, I never got hurt,” said Holder. “I just never really thought about myself being in a bad situation and when it did happen, it was pretty extreme.
“Before that, I would go for anything but now I’m more aware. I want to ride another day so I’m not going to put everything on the line for something that could end in tears.
“But in a Grand Prix, if the world championship was on the line and I had to win, I would go for it.
“The GP is everything to us and when you win it once you get that bug I suppose. To get that feeling again would be unbelievable so I would risk pretty much everything.
“It’s more of a personal thing. We don’t get paid half as much as we should from the GP’s but just to get that tag again would be massive. I would have to do it.”
A bright start to 2014, including Saturday’s 15-point haul in Malilla, sees third-placed Holder among the early contenders in the GP series, eight points off Brit Tai Woffinden at the summit.
And while mixed fortunes in club speedway for Piraterna in Sweden and Unibax Torun in Poland have frustrated the Ringwood-based star, he insisted his comeback had largely gone to plan so far.
“I wouldn’t say I’m completely back to normal and how I like to go. I’m not restricted by it but maybe think about things a little bit,” he added.
“Every time I take off my shirt and see a massive scar on my waist it’s not good. My foot is nowhere near 100 per cent, which annoys me a little bit, not so much with the riding but things like walking and running.
“It is tough on the family side of things, not just for my partner Sealey and my son Max but my family back home too.
“They were all pretty worried because it was a big hit and I had never had such an injury before.
“It’s tough for them to see me race now because they can see what can happen that bit more.
“I would never want to go through all that again but I have to accept the fact that if I’m doing this I have to get on with it. I can’t worry about getting hurt.
“To be honest it is going really well. I didn’t expect to be on the pace straight away like I have been.
“I thought I would struggle for confidence having had a big knock but I have tried not to think about it and race like I always have.
“I’m getting there and, hopefully, there is a bit more to come as the year goes on.”