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MADSEN: STAKES TOO HIGH FOR JUNIOR STARS

Danish star Leon Madsen believes there is too much riding on the results of speedway’s young guns as teams battle for top honours.

28 / 03 / 2021, 11:45

Danish star Leon Madsen believes there is too much riding on the results of speedway’s young guns as teams battle for top honours.

Having strong under-21 riders has never been more important for clubs and countries in world speedway. Every Monster Energy FIM Speedway of Nations side must feature one, while all of Poland’s PGE Ekstraliga teams track two Polish under-21s at No.6 and No.7, along with an under-24 rider of any nationality in the top five and an under-23 at No.8.

Britain’s professional leagues have also introduced the Rising Star scheme for 2021, with every SGB Premiership and Championship club required to track one rider from this programme. It is hoped this will rise to two in 2022.

So many times it’s up to the juniors to do well and make the team win. I feel it’s a bit of a shame if it’s like that.

Leon Madsen

The rules are designed to encourage clubs and countries to develop talent, but there’s no doubt teams with the strongest junior stars can have a huge advantage over the competition.

Madsen could benefit from this for club and country this year. Former Polish Under-21 champion Jakub Miskowiak looks set to play a key role in his PGE Ekstraliga side Czestochowa’s title chances.

Meanwhile, 17-year-old Marcus Birkemose had a huge hand in Denmark winning Monster Energy SON bronze on his international senior debut in Lublin last October, and incredibly he could race for the Danes as an under-21 for the next four seasons.

While Madsen appreciated his young compatriot’s heroics as Denmark won its first medal since 2015, the former world No.2 fears there is too much riding on the results of the youngest riders in teams. He said: “It is important to have a good under-21 rider. That’s how it is in speedway nowadays – it’s the same in the Ekstraliga.

“Marcus did very well in Lublin. It was a good team performance and he did very well for his first appearance on the international stage.

“But every time we speak about the SON or the Ekstraliga, many times we are saying ‘the juniors are very important.’ So many times it’s up to the juniors to do well and make the team win. I feel it’s a bit of a shame if it’s like that.

“It is what it is and fortunately we have two good juniors in Jakub and Mateusz Swidnicki at Czestochowa. But even in the strongest league in the world, you have those rules where you have junior riders and riders under 24.

“It is a bit of a shame, but maybe it is necessary to have it like that in speedway. I don’t know. When I came to Poland, you could have a foreign under-21 rider in the team. Now you can’t. They could open it up to an under-21 foreign rider to make the league stronger.”

Despite Madsen’s reservations, Birkemose could have a huge impact for his country if he is recalled to the national squad for this year’s Monster Energy SON meetings in September and October.

The teenager joined forces with Madsen to claim a heat advantage against Sweden, which saw them land the bronze medals on countback.

It was Denmark’s first podium finish in a world senior team event since they won silver at the 2015 FIM Speedway World Cup Final in Vojens and the result was a huge lift for Danish speedway.

“It was very nice,” Madsen said. “The whole team was happy and the Danish federation was very pleased about the medal. It was nice to win that for Denmark and hopefully we can take it a step further this year and win some medals again – maybe silver or gold. That would be nice.”

Photo: Taylor Lanning

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