• Bartosz with fiancée Sandra.
Picture: JAREK PABIJAN
BARTOSZ Zmarzlik was voted Poland’s Sports Personality of the Year last weekend in the 85th such poll organised by leading sports daily Przeglad Sportowy. Zmarzlik was presented with the trophy during a televised gala dinner in a prime-time evening slot on the free-to-air nationwide channel Polsat.
It is only the second time that a speedway rider has won the prestigious award. Zmarzlik’s mentor Tomasz Gollob also took the honours back in 1999.
Zmarzlik said afterwards: “I was only four years old when Tomasz won, so I don’t remember it. I started racing when I was seven!”
The World Champion had previously figured in the top 10 of the awards twice, finishing eighth and sixth, but admitted that he did not expect to win this time.
“I would have welcomed a place in the top five with open arms,” he said, “but gradually there were fewer and fewer names left and when Pawel Fajdek (the hammer throw World Champion) was called up to collect the prize for third place, it became clear that it was between me and Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich striker).
“I expected Robert to take the trophy but standing on the stage with him waiting for the overall result felt like racing for the World Championship in a way. The emotions I had were comparable to the ones I have when I line up at the tapes!”
After it was announced that Zmarzlik had won, the World Champion remained as modest as ever as he addressed the audience.
“Standing next to Robert Lewandowski, an athlete I personally look up to when I sometimes attend international football matches, is an amazing feeling,” he said.
“I would like to express my words of gratitude to everyone who devoted their time and cast their vote for me. I believe speedway is on the rise and it is noticeable.
“It is something special when speedway can win such a prestigious poll. I need to thank my parents, my fiancée, my brother, my coach and my club Stal Gorzow. Without them, I would not be here and it would be impossible to chase my dreams. Thanks also to my sponsors and the people who help me on everyday basis.”
Zmarzlik accumulated 98,327 votes to win the poll, some 20,000 more than runner-up Lewandowski. Third-placed Fajdek received fewer than 60,000 votes, which indicates the extent to which Polish speedway fans united in their support for the country’ s third World Champion after Jerzy Szczakiel and Gollob.
Report: WOJTEK SZOLTYSEK
“It’s nice to be in that position,” he said. “I haven’t really been riding a whole lot recently, so I have just winged it, come out and had a bit of a play.
“Being in the middle of our offseason, I have been trying to have a bit of a break. I also had some delays with bike parts not really turning up on time. I didn’t really have any equipment for a while.
“It’s nice that it has worked out at the start of the series. I’ve started having a bit of a ride and so far, so good.
“I have had a couple of good meetings now. Hopefully I can keep that consistency up and be on the podium come the end of the championship.”
The Albury round was won by Tungate, who defied a mechanical failure and crash, which cost him six points in the heats. He scraped into the semi-finals on nine, before going on to win the final ahead of Lidsey, Fricke and Jack Holder.
While the 2018 champion’s form Down Under is no surprise, Lidsey’s heroics have certainly raised plenty of eyebrows.
The Belle Vue man was always tipped to challenge for the senior crown in the future. But he led the standings after the Albury meeting on 19 points, before exiting at the semi-final stages with 12 in Undera.
Fricke is expecting a tough challenge from the Aces’ shooting star and others in the final two rounds.
He said: “Jaimon has been riding really well this series, as has everyone really. You can see there are a few guys coming into the series with a bit of form.
“They’re keeping me on my toes – that’s for sure. I have been very impressed with how everyone has been riding and hopefully I can keep a bit of an edge over the next couple of rounds.” AUSTRALIAN CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Max Fricke 37, 2= Jaimon Lidsey 31, Rohan Tungate 31, 4= Jack Holder 25, Chris Holder 25, Brady Kurtz 25, 7 Sam Masters 21, 8 Josh Pickering 16, 9 Ryan Douglas 13, 10 Zach Cook 12, 11 Jordan Stewart 11, 12= Robert Medson 9, Justin Sedgmen 9, 14 Ben Cook 7, 15 Jack Morrison 4, 16= Zane Keleher 0, Declan Knowles 0.
Report: PAUL BURBIDGE
• FULL coverage of the Albury and Undera rounds in next week’s Speedway Star from our man in Australia, Peter White.
HANS Andersen is delighted to be ‘home’ again after securing a 2020 Premiership place with Peterborough.
Club legend Andersen remains with the club for a second successive season after a tricky 2019 on a personal and team basis.
Now he’s ready for a fresh start with a clean bill of health in Panthers colours.
He said: “I’m over the moon to be coming back to the Showground, it’s always been one of my, if not the, favourite track.
“Fitness wise I’m really good and in very, very good condition due to the fact I’ve done loads of running these last three months especially. I’m very keen to get the season underway soon.”
Andersen becomes the fourth confirmed signing for the new season alongside Michael Palm Toft, Chris Harris and Bradley Wilson-Dean – all familiar faces.
And he says things can only get better after everything went wrong for the Crendon Panthers in their first season back in the top flight.
He said: “The team suffered a nightmare 2019 with possibly all of the 1-7 out injured and some of us even twice so it was tough.
“But – and this is important to say - motivation was never any problem as I really enjoyed being at Peterborough and to be together with the great bunch of team-mates I had.”
Danish star Andersen is also ready to put behind him the toughest year of his life on a personal basis.
“2019 has undoubtedly been the hardest year throughout my whole life,” he said. “Saying goodbye to four close relationships within six months, one being my dad, was really heartbreaking and my bad injuries on top of all this mentally broke me.
“It’s now 2020 and I’m keener than ever to get back in the saddle and race, for me it’s all about the future now and I’m not looking back.”
FORMER Russian team manager Andrei Savin – the first-ever Speedway of Nations-winning boss – has passed away.
Savin made history when he led his country to their first senior shalesport world title of any kind in the inaugural SON Final at Wroclaw’s Olympic Stadium in June, 2018.
News of his death was broken on Facebook by team captain Emil Sayfutdinov on New Year’s Eve, with the World No. 3 posting: “After a long battle, our Russian speedway team manager Andr ei Savin has passed away. Our thoughts are with all his family and friends. Rest in peace, my friend.”
Savin previously served as an FIM referee, before taking charge of the national speedway team for the 2015 Speedway World Cup.
He led them to bronze at the 2017 SWC Final in Leszno, before taking them to gold in Wroclaw as Sayfutdinov joined forces with Artem Laguta and under-21 Gleb Chugunov to write their names into Russian speedway folklore.
Savin didn’t lead the team last summer as Russia retained their title on home shale in Togliatti. He served as the local delegate on the FIM Jury instead.
A host of current and former international team managers lined up to pay tribute to Savin on Twitter.
Former Great Britain boss Alun Rossiter posted: “Really sad news. Nice man; always tried to speak when we met. He was a good man. RIP.”
Aussie team manager Mark Lemon wrote: “Really saddened to hear of the passing of Andrei. We may not have spoken a language we both understood but felt very much the bond of speedway together. Much respected. RIP.”
Ex-Danish chief Jan Staechmann posted: “Such a nice man. Our thoughts are with the family. May he rest in peace.”
BSPA Chairman Rob Godfrey hopes fans travelling back north from Cardiff will fill Leicester for the Championship Fours.
It was announced on Monday night that the event will switch from Peterborough to Leicester and take place on Sunday, July 19.
It means two major domestic dates on either side of the British Grand Prix with the Pairs at Somerset on the Friday night, July 17.
Said Godfrey: “It was discussed in depth about how we handle the Fours because we can’t get a suitable date to keep it at Peterborough.
“There have been meetings staged on the Sunday of Cardiff historically and we felt this would be worth a try.
“I know it can be an expensive weekend but tickets will be available in advance to help this, so fans can perhaps buy a ticket for one event well in advance and then pay for the other on the day itself to spread the cost.
“I know it’s not ideal for Somerset and Poole fans but you won’t ever have a venue that suits everyone all the time.
“Somerset always do a fantastic job on the Friday night before Cardiff hosting the Pairs and it always cr eates a great atmosphere.
“With the addition of the Fours the day after Cardiff it really is a great opportunity for fans to make a weekend of it. I recall the days at Newport when they had the Welsh Open the day after Cardiff and always got a big crowd.”
It has also been confirmed the Championship Individual meeting will once again be hosted by Sheffield on Sunday, September 6, and the British Final is to be confirmed once the TV schedule is finalised.
PSWICH were due to unveil Nico Covatti as their latest signing this morning (Thursday).
IFollowing hot on the heels of the popular announcement of showman Danny Ayres at Foxhall, the return of Covatti is sure to go down just as well with Tru Plant Witches fans.
The triple Italian Champion, who was born in Argentina, is back with the club for a second spell after four previous seasons.
He joins Ayres, Danny King, Nicolai Klindt, Cameron Heeps and Jake Allen in the side with the club looking for another big hitter to finalise their plans.
Speedway Star would like to thank Ipswich for their co-operation in us reporting this news.
January 11, 2020 speedway star 3