Lol's parents talk of anguish

JOHN Hare had a premonition that his son Lawrence would suffer a bad injury on Sunday, April 14.Speaking for the first time since the Ipswich-based speedway rider broke his back riding for Exeter at Newport, Hare senior said: "I knew when the telephone rang what it was.

By Elvin King

JOHN Hare had a premonition that his son Lawrence would suffer a bad injury on Sunday, April 14.

Speaking for the first time since the Ipswich-based speedway rider broke his back riding for Exeter at Newport, Hare senior said: "I knew when the telephone rang what it was."

The dreaded call came to their Balmoral Close, Ipswich home at 4.0pm just as John came in from the garden to watch Arsenal's FA Cup semi-final against Middlesbrough on television.

"It was my other son Stewart, who had been told the news by fellow rider Seemond Stephens," added Hare senior. "By 8pm we were at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport."

Since then John and his wife Dawn have spent most of their time at their son's bedside with their daughter-in-law Stacey.

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Currently having a break at their Ipswich home until they return down the M4 on Friday, the pair talked of the dreadful last two and half weeks, and looked ahead with optimism.

"I don't know why, but I had a premonition that something was going to happen to Lol," added Hare senior.

"He planned to stay at Newquay with Seemond before riding at Trelawny in Cornwall later in the week.

"Consequently, neither Stewart nor I travelled to Newport with him. Lawrence was told on the first night that he would be paralysed - in fact he knew it himself on the track."

After laying flat on his back for 11 days with a special head brace weighed down by a 9lb weight, Lol underwent a four hour operation to stabilise his condition and make his neck and shoulders stronger so that he can function better.

His mum said that the time of the operation was the worst of her life. "I felt even worse than when I heard about Lol's crash," said Mrs Hare.

"I went into the anaesthetic room with Lol, and then John and I sat in our car in the hospital car park for six hours.

"It felt like six days. We needed to be in touch with the hospital by telephone and they do not allow mobiles inside.

"It was the day after we heard about Chris Louis' crash in Sweden and we spent some of the time trying to track down Ipswich rider Jeremy Doncaster to find out more news.

"The operation could have made Lol's condition worse. We knew that. It had been delayed for a week because of a chest infection.

"Eventually we were told that he had come through okay. He is having regular physio now on his arms, and his fingers are beginning to straighten."

John, who played local football at a high level, added that Lol had feeling in his hands immediately after his crash.

"But by the time he was taken to hospital this had gone. Now they expect it will come back. He has good movement in both arms.

"Lol can vividly remember the crash and how he passed Newport rider Lee Dickin and then closed in on Craig Watson. Watson locked up a bit and Lol clipped his back wheel and high-sided off his machine.

"It was the way his neck went over and the way his bike came back and gave him a clout that caused the injury."

John says that an airfence would not have saved his son from spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair. "I don't blame the fence, Lol's injury could have happened anywhere."

Asked whether he would recommend speedway to any father of an aspiring rider, John said: "I have no doubt in my mind that Lol would do it all over again.

"There are a lot of risks but if you have a son who has his mind made up then you go along with it.

"This could well have been his last season. At 32 he has had a couple of bangs, but so do most speedway riders.

"He broke his leg and then crushed a vertebrae riding at Newport before his latest injury. But he did not look upon it as a jinx track.

"Last season he scored 14 points there and he won a British semi-final on the same circuit. Speedway, like all sports, has its ups and downs and Dawn and I like to look back on the 21 point maximum Lol scored for Edinburgh in the Premier League and the 15 point maximum he scored for Oxford at Coventry in the Elite League.

"Last season Lol rode virtually with just one arm after damaging a hand riding for Ipswich in 2000.

"His season with the Witches was affected by the back injury he suffered at Newport on January 1 2000.

"It is a similar injury to the one Chris Louis has just suffered and there were some mornings when he could not get out of bed. But it improved as time wore on."

John and Dawn have nothing but praise for the speedway fraternity. "If Lol had been a top footballer he would not have received the response he has," said John. "He has received over 500 cards and the hospital switchboard was jammed.

"Cards and messages have come in from Australia, USA, Poland, Sweden, in fact everywhere where speedway is raced.

"My Lol was a racer and the fans appreciated that. He was not a great starter but tried his hardest to make his way through from the back.

"We are proud that he was voted rider of the year by fans at Oxford (twice) Edinburgh. Rye House and Exeter last season."

Former Ipswich Witches co-promoter Mike Western, a family friend, and Lol's aunt Lynn Dennis are organising a special fund in connection with the Evening Star.

"We aim to raise £100,000," said Western. "And I think we will. Lol's friendly nature made him a big favourite wherever he went and on the track he was always trying.

"He was a racer to the final yard and fans appreciated that. Knowing Lol as I do I am sure he will be back racing something, somewhere fairly soon."

And Lol's father, who has been loaned a caravan by Paul Sharman of Sharman Caravans to stay in Newport with his wife, said that they now looked ahead with optimism.

"We have to thank family and friends and those who we do not know personally for their encouraging messages. Also the hospital where Lol could not have been better looked after with surgeon Mr Jones and his team and Sisters Mary and Hayley.

"Also riders like Leigh Lanham, Mark Loram and Ben Howe who have been to see him in hospital and Chris Louis who was due to visit when Lol had a bad day.

"Our son Stewart, who has been so strong and also the Evening Star for their help. We can see light at the end of the tunnel now and when Lawrence is given the go-ahead to sit up it will be another big milestone.

"He has a long way to go, but with all the encouragement he is receiving we can look ahead with hope."