RIDER ROUND-UP: BARTOSZ ZMARZLIK
SGP Rider Round-up catches up with the FIM Speedway Grand Prix stars to find out what they’ve been up to during the winter months. Today, we feature world No.3 Bartosz Zmarzlik.
Mixing with Polish sporting royalty used to be the preserve of 2010 world champion Tomasz Gollob. But now Zmarzlik, the man Mr G schooled in his early years at Stal Gorzow, is taking over that mantle.
Last month, Zmarzlik finished eighth in the prestigious Plebiscyt Przeglądu Sportowego in Warsaw – Poland’s equivalent of BBC Sports Personality of the Year, which dates back to 1926.
"For sure it was a dream come true to get into a group of the 10 best Polish sportspeople, and I can only wish everybody else has the chance to get into it because being there is a really extraordinary feeling."
- Bartosz Zmarzlik
It was a fitting tribute to a phenomenal SGP debut season for the former World Under-21 champion, as he rubbed shoulders with the likes of winner and double Olympic hammer throw champion Anita Włodarczyk and Polish football icon Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Munich.
Throughout all this hype, Zmarzlik remains grounded and admits standing alongside such sporting icons was an incredible experience.
He said: “For sure it was a dream come true to get into a group of the 10 best Polish sportspeople, and I can only wish everybody else has the chance to get into it because being there is a really extraordinary feeling.
“I was a bit stressed, maybe too much and I couldn’t say a word! It is the biggest gala of all and it was definitely worth being there.
"The venue was great. It is good to be in great, cool places like Warsaw.”
Gollob is the only speedway rider to have won the prize, topping the public vote in 1999, when he finished second in the FIM Speedway World Championship. Incredibly, he only finished fourth when he topped the podium in 2010, one place ahead of SGP silver medallist Jaroslaw Hampel, who may have taken a few votes away from him.
A world title win for Zmarzlik would give him every chance of going for joining Gollob on the poll’s roll of honour. But Zmarzlik is a modest man, and he’s determined to focus on putting in the hard work, rather than thinking about pressure and prizes.
Asked if he felt the weight of expectation going into 2017, he said: “I think that the 2016 season was pretty good for me. When it comes to pressure in 2017, I’m not thinking about it and I’ll try to do everything the best I can to get ready the best I can for this season.”
Zmarzlik could also get the chance to add to his 2016 Monster Energy FIM Speedway World Cup gold medal at this year’s Final in Leszno on July 8.
With the likes of Patryk Dudek, Maciej Janowski, Jaroslaw Hampel, plus Leszno-born trio Przemyslaw and Piotr Pawlicki and Krzysztof Kasprzak all vying for places, competition for a spot in Marek Cieslak’s side will be fierce.
Some have tipped Zmarzlik to emerge as the spearhead of the side. But the Szczecin-born racer admits the Polish team isn’t short of leaders.
He said: “I want to be myself and ride the best I can. Everybody can be a leader of the national team because all of us are capable of doing it. I will do everything I can.”
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