In the light of the coronavirus, Tomasz Gollob chose the other day to move from his room at a military hospital in Bydgoszcz, and back home in a sort of self-elected quarantine. The Polish sports legend is still weakened after the accident 3 years ago, and feels more secure at home than in a hospital.
Read here the story of one of the postwar greatest Polish sports icons.
By Ib Søby
On Friday, April 23, 2017, Tomasz Gollob drove the beautiful walk along the Wisla River up to the small town of Chelmno, about 40 kilometers north of the hometown of Bydgoszcz. As part of preparations for the upcoming speedway season, the 2010 World Champion wanted to take part in a motocross race. Of course, it attracted a lot of attention in the club KM Wisla Chelmno, that Mr. himself. G had announced his arrival.
But this wasn't the first time Gollob had flirted with motocross. It was a discipline he loved dearly, second only to the speedway. He had also suffered multiple injuries on a motocross bike, and several times in his career, the Polish coach Marek Cieslak had given Gollob a ski ball, and asked him to stick to the slag.
During the warm-up, this St. Prayer Day in 2017, things went wrong. No one really knows how, but suddenly Tomasz Gollob's body lay distorted on the track, while other drivers stopped, and officials rushed towards the injured driver. Investigations at the hospital in Bydgoszcz quickly revealed that the accident was far more serious than initially thought. Gollob had among other things. a sustained severe spinal cord injuries. He had to undergo surgery, and was then kept in a pharmacological coma for weeks.
Sports-happy Poland was shaken in its foundation. Good enough was Tomek - or Mr. G - no longer the World Cup candidate in the speedway. He ran his last grand prix in 2015, and had stepped down his career to “only” run in the Polish league for the club in Grudziadz, not far from the birthplace of Bydgoszcz. But he was - unconditionally - the most prominent and most winning runway country of all time. Paradoxically, before the Gollob World Cup title in 2010, Poland had only Jerzy Szczakiel's highest surprise World Cup of 1973 to delight.
Tomasz Robert Gollob was born on April 11, 1971.
The large historic university town of Bydgoszcz in Lower Pomerania suffered painfully during the Nazi regime, where over 10,000 residents were executed in the city's marketplace, or out in the "Valley of Death," a park outside the city center. The subsequent Communist era did not make everyday life easier for the 300,000 citizens. It was crying and comfortless with Stalinist concrete construction, empty shops, chemical industry, hunger and poverty.
In the early 1960s, Wladislaw Gollob moved to Bydgoszcz with his wife Czeslawa. He originally came from the port city of Gdansk, where he was educated at the technical school. Since then, Wladislaw, who was interested in motorcycles and boating, had done military service at the Polish Air Force in Krakow. After moving to Bydgoszcz, Wladislaw began to run a motorcycle rally in the club Polonia, which was also involved in the speedway, and he later gained employment as a mechanic in the club, eventually joining the profile of Roman Jankowski.
Speedway was already paying close attention to popular Polish consciousness with star riders like Mieczyslaw Polukard, Marian Kaiser, Henryk Zyto and more. Three times - 1965, 1966 and 1969 - Poland won the World Cup.
De Wladislaw and Czeslawa had sons Jacek and Tomasz were the boys almost born to the speedway. Both were all-round athletes, and in school also good for ice hockey and football, but Polonia Stadium and the battlefield drew both Jacek and "Tomek" into the wind-blown sport.
It is a hallmark in many sports that it is usually the little brother who gets the greatest sporting success. Jacek was also an accomplished speedway driver, but as you know it was Tomasz who became the city's pride.
When the electrician Lech Walesa started the popular uprising in the shipyard in Gdansk in 1980 and founded the free trade union Solidarity, everyday life was gradually changed for the better in the hard-tried Poland. The weekly speedway matches could have 50-60,000 audiences at that time, for tickets and beer were cheap. A real folk sport where Tomas Gollob made his debut in the Polish league in 1988 as a 17-year-old.
The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Iron Curtain, the following year, ushered in golden times for the Polish speedway. The Danish world champion Hans Nielsen was one of the first foreigners, and several joined.
Tomas Gollob now also had the opportunity to make money in foreign leagues, and many Danish fans remember the young but embarrassed motor geek, driving to the Danish league in a bulky Ford Granada station wagon, with grandfather Wladislaw as driver, and motorcycle and equipment in the trunk.
In 1992, Tomasz Gollob became Polish senior champion for the first time. It later turned into eight national championships, which is still a record. Add to that a sea of wins in pairs and team-rides, golden helmets, and numerous other individual races. For longer and shorter periods, Gollob also ran in foreign leagues, such as Swedish Vestervik and British Ipswich.
The grand prix series was introduced in 1995, Gollob was an established star and he won the Polish grand prix in Wroclaw that year. Because of his enclosed and nerdy approach to his machines and equipment, he was often left alone in the equestrian yard. He did not speak English, and was at the same time very suspicious of the international press corps.
He was a cash racer, and quickly gained a reputation as the bad boy in the class. The tough dog that nobody really cared about, whereas later Polish stars such as Jaroslaw Hampel and Piotr Protasiewiecz could easily cope because they spoke English.
But his immense talent on the field no one could take from him.
Gollob often won the Grand Prix race, and especially under huge pressure at home in Bydgoszcz, but it struggled with the stable bottom level to win a World Cup title. It became four times the World Cup bronze and two silver, before the final triumph in 2010.
Meanwhile, Tomasz had married Brygida. It eventually developed into a very turbulent and tempestuous marriage, even though they got daughter Wiktoria together. The couple broke up in 2010 after mutual accusations and lawsuits. Evil tongues in the Polish speedway say that Gollob just became the world champion that year because has been out of the fight with his wife.
On the whole, Gollob often lived on a knife egg. He suffered many crashes and injuries on the track, and had a car accident in 1999 which cost a World Cup title.
In 2007, he crashed into a private plane in Poland, together with Wladislaw and Norwegian-born driver Rune Holta. The group was on their way home after the Danish Grand Prix in the Park and miraculously survived.
Tomasz Gollob now sits in a wheelchair home in Bydgoszcz. Has been admitted to the military hospital since February due to a number of complications following two surgeries. In December, he had his pacemaker removed, and in January the doctors performed a new spinal cord surgery. At the same time, he is constantly fighting against cystitis, a consequence of which he is very much lying down.
He dreams and hopes for a miracle operation in the United States that might help him regain his composure. It is an operation that costs DKK 6 million, but with the support of the Polish speedway environment and the Polish motor union PZM, it is possible to obtain these funds.
His old club Polonia has fallen somewhat back in recent years. He wants to help him return, and thus give something back to the city and the sport that gave him so much success.
Mr. G by Bydgoszcz.