In a sneaky bid to upstage Alex Ferguson, Stephen Sword announced his surprise retirement last week!
While it may not have had the mainstream attention the Manchester United manager attained, in British Motocross it was a big announcement and Sword will leave a giant hole to fill in the paddock and on the track.
It was a shock to many but after over 15 years as a professional rider Sword finally had to call it day. But in fitting fashion it was only because he couldn’t give his racing 100% commitment due to his successful coaching duties with Buildbase Honda.
In his retirement press release Sword stated: “In an ideal world, I would have liked to finish this season but right now something has to give and I think now is the right time to switch focus and devote 100% of my time and effort to this new project and wind down my racing career.
“This is not a particularly difficult decision for me or my family, it is a slight change to my weekly routine which has been pretty much the same for the past fifteen years, but it will be a relief not to have to try to cram everything in and try to compete at the weekends.”
Starting as a schoolboy prodigy with team green Kawasaki, Sword really began to make a name for himself in the adult scene for MJ Church Kawasaki in the late 90s before moving to Dave Thorpe’s CAT Honda team in 2000.
It was there that Sword lifted his game at GP level and no doubt learnt a lot off teammate Mike Brown.
Sword would go on to win four British titles and challenge for the 2004 MX2 World championship only to have some mechanical problems that took him out of the running against eventual world champ Ben Townley (who also recently announced his retirement).
When Sword made the move to big bikes for Jan De Groot he sustained a very bad ankle injury that ultimately meant he would never get back to the level he was previously in GPs – although he did have some good individual results.
Swords speciality was the 125 and 250f machines. In the UK, in his prime, he was virtually unbeatable, even if the best in the World took him on in the British Championship in the mid 2000s Sword had their number. It was a privilege to see Sword take about a motocross track on the smaller bore machines during that period.
Sword worked hard and was dedicated to his craft but he also aligned himself to the right people. He leant on the knowledge of world champion’s Dave Thorpe and Greg Albertyn, and when Albertyn advised him to take the offer of signing for De Groot Sword obliged and would have the best years of his GP racing career under the De Groot awning.
Sword also never gave up whatever the circumstances. He didn’t set the GPs alight initially but gradually worked his way into scoring points, then the top ten, then the top five, then fight for wins and challenging for titles.
After his injury Sword and the prospect of never riding again, Sword dug deep once more, defied the doubter and came back and win another British title, this time for Roger Magee’s HM Plant KTM team.
By now the elder statesmen, Sword advised the young riders and helped them find their way in the professional level and even in the last injury strewn years Sword always had the speed to challenge at the front when healthy.
In typical Sword fashion he is looking to help the next generation of motocross starts and they couldn’t ask for a better role model or coach!
Stephen Sword was the ultimate professional and he accomplished more than most professional riders ever well. He is one of the greats of British motocross.
Article by Jonathan McCready