Tributes as speedway legend Mauger passes away aged 78
Six-time world champion speedway racer Ivan Mauger has passed away at the age of 78.
The New Zealander, who was a legend of the sport, had suffered from a form of Alzheimer's and dementia for several years and died in his home on Australia's Gold Coast yesterday.
Mauger was most successful in the 1960s and '70s when the sport was at its most popular, contested by professional clubs.
Competing against rivals such as Ronnie Moore and Barry Briggs, both of whom are also from New Zealand, Mauger dominated the sport when it was extremely well-liked in Britain.
The Kiwi, who was born in Christchurch, won three successive titles in 1968, 1969 and 1970, before adding further world crowns to his cabinet in 1972, 1977 and 1979.
He also had three runner-up finishes in 1971, 1973 and 1974, while his first top-three finish came in 1967, a year before his dominant stretch.
Mauger raced for three British clubs in his 28-year career, the Wimbledon Dons, Newcastle Diamonds and Exeter Falcons, winning his first world title with the Diamonds. His 1977 triumph came with the Falcons.
On top of his successes on the world stage, Mauger also ended his career as a twice Australasian champion and a four-time New Zealand champion.
The speedway legend competed across 26 countries in over 1,000 events before officially retiring from the sport in 1985, however his final race was in Adelaide in 1986.
After his retirement he became a well-respected promoter of speedway events.
Mauger's sporting achievements saw him named New Zealand Sportsman of the Year in 1977 and 1979, he was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1990 and was awarded both an MBE and OBE.
He was also selected to carry the Olympic Torch in 2000 when the Games were in Sydney.
Mauger is survived by his wife Raye and their three children, Kym, Debbie and Julie.
Debbie was the one leading the tributes to the sporting great, posting on Twitter: "You knew him as 'Ivan' & I truly respect that I really do, I was so lucky & privileged to know him as Dad, how lucky we all were. Such an amazing life lived to the max (sic)."
Speedway New Zealand chief executive John McCallum was also among those who expressed their sadness at the passing of Mauger.
"He was a megastar. No one dominated the world like Ivan did," McCallum said. "In footballing terms, he was the Pele of speedway.
"He was bigger than just a speedway rider. Not too many people made the impact on the global stage that Ivan did."