ZMARZLIK TAKES THIRD PLACE IN POLISH ATHLETE OF 2021 VOTE

Double world champion Bartosz Zmarzlik stormed to third place in Przeglad Sportowy’s prestigious Polish Athlete of 2021 vote. Zmarzlik saw off competition from a host of Olympic gold medallists and fellow Polish sporting icons in the public poll to reach the top three in Poland’s equivalent of BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Football legend Robert Lewandowski (pictured left above with the Zmarzlik family) claimed first place once again, with Tokyo 2020 women’s hammer throw champion Anita Włodarczyk placed second. But Zmarzlik’s incredible five FIM Speedway Grand Prix wins last year, which saw him fall just three points short of a third world title, saw him finish ahead of Polish Olympic heroes Dawid Tomala (50km walk champion), Wojciech Nowicki (men’s hammer throw champion), Maria Andrejczyk (women’s javelin silver medallist) and Poland’s gold-medal-winning mixed 4x400m relay team. The Gorzow and Lejonen rider, who won the Polish Athlete of 2019 vote, says his surge on to the podium was somewhat unexpected, and admits he may have to hide the latest statuette to join his trophy collection. He told Przeglad Sportowy: “Wow! What happened here! I didn't even dream about it. I am so happy. My son Antek has grown teeth and he bites everything. I will have to hide this statuette quickly! “It is a great honour, a dream come true. Thank you very much for all the votes. Thank you to my whole family, team and sponsors.” Zmarzlik, won also won the 2021 Polish Championship and FIM Speedway of Nations silver, heads into 2022 chasing a third SpeedwayGP world title in four seasons and his sixth top-three finish in seven years. Photo: Bartosz Zmarzlik's Facebook page

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ZMARZLIK EXCITED FOR SWC RETURN IN 2023

Polish icon Bartosz Zmarzlik believes the FIM Speedway World Cup is “the best event for speedway” as the iconic tournament returns at Torun’s Marian Rose Motoarena in 2023. Zmarzlik hopes to line up for his country at the 2022 FIM Speedway of Nations in Danish seaside city Esbjerg this July. But 2023 is also set to be a huge summer for the sport as the SWC makes a very popular return. Poland won the Ove Fundin Trophy eight times in 13 seasons from 2005 to 2017. Zmarzlik was part of their most recent title-winning sides in 2016 and 2017, and he can’t wait for the competition’s comeback in July 2023. He said: “I remember winning two World Cups and for me, it is the best event for speedway, and also for the riders. It is a great feeling to race in the World Cup and I am waiting for this.” While the Poles will enjoy home advantage at the Marian Rose Motoarena, Zmarzlik believes one of the sport’s fairest race tracks will guarantee a very competitive week of racing. He said: “Torun is a good place for the World Cup because all the riders from speedway have been there many times. I think everyone has the same chance.” As well as winning a fantastic five FIM Speedway Grand Prix rounds on his way to the SpeedwayGP silver medal in 2021, Zmarzlik took second place in the SON with the Polish team. The Poles were stunned by hosts Great Britain, who won the Grand Final in Manchester 5-4 to lift their first world title since 1989. This left the sport’s biggest nation facing more heartbreak in the SON. The Poles have reached the rostrum every year since the competition launched in 2018, but are yet to claim top spot, winning three silvers and one bronze. It is often argued that the SWC format best suits Poland – a nation with no shortage of top riders. Only three riders can be selected for the SON – with one of them serving as the reserve – whereas four can be picked for the SWC, along with an under-21 reserve rider. Zmarzlik knows competition for team places will be fierce when the SWC returns, so he is glad Polish team manager Rafal Dobrucki will be the man to decide who lines up in Torun. He said: “I think this is a problem for Rafal. I just want to score good points for Poland and for me. This is my plan and we will see what happens.” Zmarzlik is in the running for another top prize tonight when the prestigious Przeglad Sportowy gala takes place in Warsaw, where the Polish Athlete of 2021 will be crowned. The SpeedwayGP hero is nominated alongside national football hero Robert Lewandowski, plus Olympic gold medal winners Dawid Tomala, Wojciech Nowicki, Anita Wlodarczyk and the mixed 4 x 400m relay team. Tennis stars Iga Swiatek and Hubert Hurkacz area also in the running for Poland's equivalent of BBC Sports Personality of the Year. The top 10 will be revealed at the start of the show, which gets underway at 20:00 on Polsat. It will also be broadcasted on PrzegladSportowy.pl and Onet.pl.

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THOMSEN'S SPEEDWAYGP TEST

Danish champion Anders Thomsen insists he’s “absolutely more prepared” for the 2022 FIM Speedway Grand Prix series after admitting it was a big step up from racing in Poland’s PGE Ekstraliga and Denmark. The Gorzow and Vojens star finished 11th in his debut season on the SpeedwayGP stage and was handed a permanent wild card for 2022 by the SGP Commission. Having reached semi-finals in Prague, Lublin and Malilla and one final, when he finished third at the FIM SpeedwayGP of MFR – Togliatti, Thomsen showed he could mix it with speedway’s biggest stars last year. But he admits making the transition from the world’s top leagues to the SpeedwayGP series is no easy task. He said: “I race in the Ekstraliga and can score a lot of points and feel comfortable. But when you go into the Grand Prix, it is a big difference – people won’t know if they haven’t tried it. “You get your backside kicked and it is really, really tough. The riders in the Grand Prix have been there for many years and they know exactly what they need – engines, tuners, bikes and they know where you need to be at what time. “It is pretty stressful, but I have done it for one year now and I am absolutely more prepared for the season.” Thomsen is delighted to have been given a second season by the SGP Commission as he bids to establish himself in the series. He said: “I feel that I improved. I reached four semi-finals and one final. I made one podium too. I grew with the series and I am really thankful that they gave me one more year to show that I am worth a place in the Grand Prix. I showed I can fight with the big guys. Now I know what to do and I am really focused for this year. I really want to kick ass.” While Thomsen heads into 2022 determined to pile up the points, he also believes he will benefit from a more relaxed approach to his preparations. “I have stayed calmer this winter,” he said. “Before, it was really stressful. I was thinking I need to run at least 10km and do this or that. “Of course I keep myself in shape and train a lot. But now I am trying to enjoy things more and focus on the sport and fitness. Things will come to you if you are good enough.”

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LAGUTA'S RECORD RUN

FIM Speedway Grand Prix world champion Artem Laguta admits he didn’t expect his record-equalling run of finals as he won an epic title fight with Bartosz Zmarzlik in 2021. The Wroclaw and Vastervik star denied the Pole a third straight gold medal as both men raced to an incredible five SpeedwayGP wins each, with Laguta just pipping Zmarzlik to top spot by three points. Laguta also matched 2017 world champion Jason Doyle’s record haul of 10 finals in one series, and he could equal Tony Rickardsson and Jason Crump’s record of 11 straight SpeedwayGP finals across multiple seasons at the FIM SpeedwayGP of Croatia – Gorican on April 30. Consistency is everything in SpeedwayGP, and Laguta admits he was elated with his final flourish. He said: “I wasn’t just surprised to win five rounds; I was surprised to be in the final 10 times in a row. “I missed out at the first one in Prague, but to reach 10 finals in a row at this level is something amazing. I did not expect it at all.” Laguta admits he revelled in his rivalry with Zmarzlik, with both riders pushing each other in a hard but fair contest for speedway’s biggest prize. He said: “I couldn’t believe how me and Bartosz battled at such a high level. We don’t know if it’s going to be like this in the future, but the battle with Bartosz was exciting. “It was at a high level, but it was sporting. We can compete on the track, but with respect. Respect is crucial.” Laguta makes no secret of the fact his first taste of the SpeedwayGP World Championship champagne has left him with a thirst for more this year. He said: “That’s why I am here in this sport – to get wins. The feeling of winning in Torun was so great and I want that feeling every year. Every season is different, but if you are competing in sports, you are there to win.”

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KVECH SET FOR DANISH DEBUT

Czech international Jan Kvech will make his Danish Speedwayligaen debut in 2022 after agreeing terms with Brovst club Nordjysk Elite Speedway. The former FIM Czech SpeedwayGP wild card has emerged as one of his country’s brightest prospects and scored seven championship points across the Prague double-header last year. He also represented his country in the 2018 and 2019 FIM Speedway of Nations Semi-Finals as an under-21 rider. Kvech can’t wait to hone his craft in the Danish league. He told the Nordjysk Elite Speedway official website: “I want to gain more experience as a speedway rider. "So when Nordjysk Elite Speedway showed interest in me, it was an easy decision for me to sign a contract with the club. “The tracks in Denmark will be new to me. I'm really looking forward to it and cannot wait to try my hand at the Danish speedway league. Hopefully I can help the club to the top of the table in 2022.” Team manager Janus Millard is delighted to bring Kvech to Brovst. He said: “There is no doubt that Jan Kvech is the great talent in Czech speedway. Being crowned European Under-19 champion in 2020 and two solid Grand Prix appearances as a wild card in Prague last year speak for themselves. “In addition, he has been one of the best in the World Under-21 Championship for three years in a row. So I actually see it as a bit of a scoop to get him to Brovst, and I am very excited to see how he develops during the season.” The Czech charger joins the likes of Ulrich Ostergaard, Thomas Jorgensen, Mathias Thornblom, Damian Drozdz and Hubert Legowik in Brovst, with the club set to unveil an A rider next week. Away from Denmark, Kvech also races for Prague club AK Marketa in the Czech league and he remains contracted to Polish First Division team Zielona Gora, although he was linked with a move to rivals Krosno for 2022.

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