Danish skipper Niels-Kristian Iversen was elated with his last-heat heroics as he snatched the Monster Energy FIM Speedway World Cup from Poland with just metres to spare in Bydgoszcz.
The Danes won one of the all-time great SWC Finals on 38 points – pipping the Poles who finished on 37 and Australia, who claimed bronze on 36. Team Great Britain were fourth on 16.
Denmark went into heat 20 tied on 36 points with Poland and NKI knew he had to beat Janusz Kolodziej to win his fourth SWC gold medal.
The former FIM Speedway Grand Prix star was holding second place and worked wonders to keep Iversen at bay, but the world No.3 refused to give in and powered past on the last corner to break the hosts’ hearts and leave the Danes delirious.
Iversen was over the moon to regain the Ove Fundin Trophy at the ZKS Polonia Stadium in such spectacular circumstances and inflict Poland’s first SWC Final defeat on home shale since Australia won at Wroclaw in 2001.
He said: “That was just insane. I just kept trying for all four laps. I was building speed up and I knew I was getting closer and closer.
“I don’t think Janusz knew where to go in the end. I saw him look back a few times and I was just trying all the different lines. It worked out perfectly.
“We’d never managed to win in Poland before. It was close but we managed to do it. It was absolutely fantastic.”
Poland threatened to run away with the gold medals in the early stages when they won their first four heats. But the Danes hit back brilliantly after triple world champion Nicki Pedersen won a tactical joker ride in heat 10 to weigh in with a crucial six points.
His 17-point salvo was every bit as critical as Iversen’s last-gasp heroics and Pedersen was delighted the Danes kept their cool despite the Poles flying out of the blocks.
He said: “After that bad start, we kept calm, we kept talking and we turned it around after the joker. I won two times from gate four – I scored nine points in two races. That put us straight back into the game and I was pleased I could do this for Denmark.
“To be here in Poland and win it is amazing. Denmark had never won a World Cup here. That’s a good achievement. Small inches made the difference between silver and gold. I knew it was going to be tough and Australia could have done it if they’d had better luck. They were only two points away."
“I was happy Australia were in it. We’d rather race against a few good teams rather than just battle with Poland. It was an incredible night – one of the best Finals for a long time.”
Polish captain Jaroslaw Hampel was proud of his team for taking the battle for gold to the wire.
He said: “We tried really hard until the end of this meeting – to the last metre. We tried to do a good job on the track in every single race. Of course we had a few mistakes and we made one mistake more than the Danes. That’s why they won. This is definitely a good moment to think about next year. We want to go and get the trophy back. It was one of the best Finals. It was incredible for the crowd. There was a lot of fighting on the track until the end – until the last metre no-one knew what would happen.”
Australian captain Chris Holder paid tribute to a heroic display from under-the-weather team mate Jason Doyle, who racked up 13 points as his side came within two of claiming their first gold medal since 2002. He said: “It was tough. Poland and Denmark are tough opponents. We started off slow, but we pegged it back with the joker and Doyley was on fire. He was the man here tonight. If you’d seen how ill he has been for the last two days, you’ll know he did unbelievably well to do what he did and keep us in there.”
Team Great Britain manager Alun Rossiter was proud of his Lions for reaching their first SWC Final since 2010. But he admits they came up short on speed on a pacey Bydgoszcz track.
He said: “It was a tough night, but you only have to look at the other teams; there were riders dropping points everywhere. It was hard racing, and we just didn’t seem to have enough speed. It was quite obvious. Even Tai (Woffinden) did not have the best night by his standards, but it’s a good learning curve and I enjoyed every minute of it. I couldn’t have asked for any more effort from the boys.”
MONSTER ENERGY SWC FINAL SCORES
1. DENMARK 38: 1 Nicki Pedersen 17, 2 Peter Kildemand 7, 3 Mads Korneliussen 3, 4 Niels-Kristian Iversen 11.
2. POLAND 37: 1 Piotr Protasiewicz 9, 2 Krzysztof Kasprzak 11, 3 Janusz Kolodziej 6, 4 Jaroslaw Hampel 11.
3. AUSTRALIA 36: 1 Chris Holder 11, 2 Darcy Ward 10, 3 Jason Doyle 13, 4 Troy Batchelor 2.
4. TEAM GREAT BRITAIN 16: 1 Tai Woffinden 12, 2 Simon Stead 0, 3 Chris Harris 4, 4 Danny King 0.