The Australian team has been left wondering what might have been after a last heat decider in the Monster Energy Speedway World Cup on a heavy track at Malilla in Sweden, finishing second to a youthful Danish squad.
Jason Crump entered the 20th and final heat just two points adrift of the Danes and on paper, had a winnable heat starting from the inside gate. He had to get around Niels-Kristian Iversen and hope that the Dane finished third to force a run-off or last for the Australians to take the victory.
Both Crump and Iversen missed the start, however despite his best efforts, Crump couldn't recover the lost ground and finished a heartbreaking last, with Iversen nabbing the vital point to give the Danes a three point win.
For much of the event, the Australians and Danes were neck and neck. In the third quarter of the meeting, the Aussies drifted far enough that the Joker could come into play, despite some questionable tactics from the Danish team to try and avoid such a situation.
Team Manager, Mark Lemon handed Chris Holder the Joker, the result of which brought the pre-event favourites back into contention. Overall, Holder was the best of the Australians with 16 points to his credit.
The Russians continued to surprise – finishing the event just six points adrift of the victory, with Grand Prix star Emil Sayfutdinov ending the event as the highest point scorer with 17 points to his credit. Meantime, it was disappointment for the Swedes on home soil, annexing just 24 points.
One of the big talking points of the event was the performance of the young Danish team. Led by triple World Champ, Nicki Pedersen, the team included 20-year-old Michael Jepsen Jensen – who equal top-scored with 11 points and 17-year-old Mikkel B Jensen – the youngest rider in the history of the Monster Energy Speedway World Cup.
Post event, Pedersen was at a loss to explain how the men in red and white overcame the Australian challenge, paying 20-year-old Darcy Ward the ultimate compliment:
“I don't know how on earth we actually beat them. But I think the way we did it was team spirit, we were confident about it,” said Pedersen. “The Australians are definitely a good team – no doubt about it,” Pedersen admitted. “Darcy Ward is the biggest talent in the world – the biggest we have ever had.”
A disappointed Crump was philosophical about receiving the silver medal:
“It was tough racing and there was not so much you could do. The Danish team scored more than us and won. We tried our best all night, but it just didn't go for us. There is nothing you can say apart from ‘well done' to the Danes. We gave it everything we had.”
FIM MONSTER ENERGY SWC FINAL SCORES:
1 Denmark 39: Nicki Pedersen 9, Niels-Kristian Iversen 11, Michael Jepsen Jensen 11, Mikkel B Jensen 8.
2 Australia 36: Jason Crump 10, Darcy Ward 7, Davey Watt 3, Chris Holder 16.
3 Russia 30: Emil Sayfutdinov 17, Grigory Laguta 8, Artem Laguta 5, Roman Povazhny 0.
4 Sweden 24: Andreas Jonsson 11, Fredrik Lindgren 9, Peter Ljung 1, Tomas H Jonasson 3.