'I've struggled a bit at times.... it's been the toughest year of my life'... Ipswich Witches skipper opens up
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Witches speedway captain and former British Champion, Danny King, has opened up on how difficult he has personally found the past 12 months.
King, 34, admitted the last year had been, 'the toughest year of my life' as, like so many, he has had to balance work/life issues during lockdown while, for him, having his profession taken away from him.
It even left him wondering if the sport will ever get off the ground again.
"It's been tough, every which way, I'll be honest. I've struggled a bit a times," the 2016 British Champion admitted.
"I've not really spoken to many people. It's been a bit sad, really. I know I'm not the only one who has felt this way. I'm just glad there is some positivity about now. These are all hurdles - and we get over them for sure."
King has been riding motorbikes since the age of six, starting on grass. He's ridden speedway full-time since he was 16. The whole of 2020 season was wiped out.
"This is the most time I've ever had away from the sport," he said. "The longest I've been off a bike.
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"I'm not in a position not to race, knock the sport on the head. It's where I earn my money. It's what I do, I'm not qualified to do anything else.
"The only other thing I want to do apart from speedway is become a fire-fighter. I feel I can't start that process until I'm ready to really go into it. And if I go into it, then there is no more speedway.
"I'm not ready to quit speedway, I've potentially got another 10 years if I want to carry on that long."
King's wife Clara is a headteacher. They have two young boys to support. With no speedway, he has been working for one of his sponsors, RJ Warren, for most of the last 12 months. And while he is eternally grateful, he can't wait to get back on a speedway bike - the 2021 season starting up again in May.
"I've tried not to think about speedway too much," he said.
"It's been a sore point really. I've wanted a start date to come round but I've known it's not there yet, so I've tried to blank it out until I know it might be coming round. Now it is, there's light at the end of the tunnel.
"It's made me more positive. I've upped my training. In the winter I didn't feel like training much. But now it looks good, things going in the right direction. In just over two weeks I'll be back on a bike.
"Its been a case of hanging on, struggling on. I've got to the point now where the money is there to race for and that's what I'm targeting."
So, while King can't wait to get back in the saddle - he is riding for Ipswich in the Premiership and Poole in the Championship - he wonders if the sport may lose some riders.
"What's happened because of the pandemic has opened people's eyes," he said. "Maybe some riders won't return to speedway. They may not earn as much money by not doing so, but they can earn more reliable money, consistent money. I think you will lose some more riders."
But onto the summer and back to the speedway track.
"The plan is for me to work with my sponsor until the end of the month, then finish," King said.
"I've got all of April then to get ready. I've got to get fit, get the bikes ready. I've been doing a bit of training recently, but will step it up. I need to jump on the bike, I have three practices booked. That's it for me, where it starts.
"Fortunately my work has been pretty manual, so my weight is good, I feel strong. I feel ready already, but I will step it up from now on."
So, Ipswich and Poole it is then for King in 2021. Two big clubs to be riding for in England this summer.
"Yes, I am riding for two very big clubs," he said. "Everyone knows Ipswich is very close to my heart. I had two years at Coventry, another big club - and now Poole.
"It's a good club at Poole. They get stick sometimes, but they are successful for a reason. I've noticed why that is. The way they treat riders, their mentality, the whole set-up is great.
"I've got the Poole race suit hanging up in my workshop and I keep looking at it and wondering when am I going to put it on!"
Certainly crowds returning to the sport is something the Witches skipper doesn't think will be a problem. He feels many can't wait to get back watching speedway.
"I think people have had enough now," he said. "So, what a way to get back to life. Watching speedway, outside, social distancing easily enough. I know the crowds can't wait to get back and we all looking forward to it.!"
No doubt, with so many riders having been off a bike for so long, most will ease their way back into the sport during the first few meetings!
King laughs out loud as I put that to him!
"Ha, ha, ha! Are you kidding me," he said. "There is going to be so much built-up testosterone out there, I can't see that happening!"