In 2016, once again, the best young riders will fight for the world's best young rider title. For many seasons, Individual Speedway Junior World Championship has had a different form and many heroes, whose careers have been going in very different ways after reaching the tile. This tournament is a real talent-digger and full of people, whose lives have followed different paths after taking the gold medal...
Individual Speedway World Championship is a tournament in which many riders could have been observed with their careers growing significantly and after reaching success in junior racing, they've been taking the titles among the seniors. Another cases are known, when after surprising the speedway world with their talents, they were disappearing out of speedway, being remembered as both huge and unfulfilled talent. That's exactly what makes these series special, full of interesting characters, remembered by the fans as their former favourites to the medals of world championship. Aspirations of many of those have been verified by the reality in the later time.
History of rivalry for the world's best junior goes down to 1988. First winner was Swede – Peter Nahlin, who defeated his countryman Henrik Gustafsson and Dane Brian Karger at the track in Slany (Czech Rep.). Scandinavian trio is well known to the speedway fans. Nahlin is a multiple representative of Sweden in Team World Championship, Gustafsson is one of the most colourful individual of world's speedway in the 90s. He had multiple starts in senior finals of individual and team world championship (where he was grabbing the top spots).
Karger however, a 2-times World Team Cup winner, after ending his career, tried his luck as a tuner (cooperating f.e. with Tomasz Gollob). None of them reached the top in the individual world's finals.
List of later champions, who didn't use the maximum of their potential consists of: Gert Handberg, Chris Louis, Joe Screen, Mikael Karlsson (later known as Mikael Max), Piotr Prostasiewicz, Andreas Jonsson, Lukas Dryml or Robert Miśkowiak. Among them, only Handberg and Jonsson reached the podium in senior's championship.
According to the plan and a talent's scale another careers went the right way, including Leigh Adams, Jason Crump, Jarosław Hampel and Emil Sayfutdinov. They have been the medalists of many individual and team meetings, leaders of club and national teams, some extraordinary individuals and have written down their names in the history books.
Crump can be also proud of becoming the world's best as both junior and senior (3-times). Young Polish riders have been aspiring to join him in this club – Maciej Janowski, Patryk Dudek, Piotr Pawlicki and Bartosz Zmarzlik. Despite their young age, they are the top stars not only in their country (and representing it), having the wins in Grand Prix rounds (Janowski and Zmarzlik). Big careers are ahead and surely each of them will do their best to develop their junior successes into the senior ones.
Speedway is also familiar with some cases of an inappriopriate leading of a young man, who's at the beginning of his career, the ones broken by injuries and talents lost because of some serious incidents or even more tragic paths of Individual Speedway Junior World Champions.
Surely, not many fans remember, than winner of the most precious trophy in junior speedway was Dawid Kujawa. Rider from Zielona Góra surprised everyone in his debut. In English Peterborough he was uncatchable for his rivals. After few years, he was totally gone from the speedway world and now it's hard to find any information about the former Falubaz rider. It was quite similar with rider from Toruń – Karol Ząbik, however his progress was stopped by numerous injuries. Ząbik was a special talent and a person with a great will to work hard. Everything was damaged by the head injuries (in one of them he was close to losing life) and many broken bones that made Ząbik become an average and after all, he was out of racing and started working with youngsters.
Huge drama happened to Lee Richardsson – English Individual Speedway Junior World Champion got into a serious crash in Polish Ekstraliga that led to his death. Accident at the motocross ruined career and life of Robert Dados. Rider named as a huge hope of Polish speedway, started to get worse at the speedway track and outside of it and that led him to three suicidal attemps with the last one effective.
Darcy Ward – Australian, who had the speedway world under his feet as a teenager, was one of the biggest talents, ever appearing at the speedway tracks. He was the world's best junior twice (similarly as Sayfutdinov), doing some incredible things with his bike. His skills' level amazed experts and fans all over the world. Many saw in him the one who could lead speedway to some new paths. Backbone's injury sat him on a wheelchair and got his dreams of big sports successes away forever.
There's an interesting fact, that many speedway starts who have been gathering medals in senior world championship, were not in the top of the U-21 category. Among the gold medalists, one would not find such names as Tony Rickardsson, Tomasz Gollob, Greg Hancock or Nicki Pedersen. Also Chris Holder and Tai Woffinden have got no golden medal in world junior's rivalry.
As the history shows, rivalry of the world's best junior is extremely interesting under many aspects. It had its heroes, sometimes tragic ones, whose later life was going in totally different ways. No doubt, we can watch some maverick riders, having an incredible pack of skills, among whose many implement new quality to the speedway sport. Great rivalry, uprising stars and unpredictability – that's what's waiting for the speedway fans in U-21 tournament in this season.