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Great Champions, great stories

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Since organization of Speedway European Championship was taken over by One Sport company, five different riders have reached for gold medals. Each of them wrote their own, unique story, which brings smile to their faces. Everything seems to be similar this year.

It all started back in 2013 from Martin Vaculik's gold. It was Slovakian rider who became the first champion in completely different formula of the series. New era of Euro Championship began on this day - cycle gained prestige and started to complete better and better line up. "Vacul" can be sure that in some way, he wrote his name in the history of speedway and noone can take this honor from him. Hardly anyone expected that it would be him to become number one.

Ahead of the last round, he was five points down from the leader - Nicki PEdersen, who had probably already felt smell of upcoming gold. It's worth mentioning that Dane's two main rivals - Tai Woffinden and Tomasz Gollob were forced to withdraw from the cycle after their horrible crash in Stockholm's GP. However, Pedersen's position was jeopardised by Martin Vaculik, who didn't find anyone who could've defeated him on that evening. Slovakian rider piled maximum points and at the end of the day, he overtook Dane by three points. It has been Vaculik's biggest achievement in his carrer, slightly sweetening his not so good debut season in Grand Prix series. Actually, it could be quite surprising that in the world championship he wasn't doing well and in the Euro series, he found his way to the top.

After that, time of Emil Sayfutdinov came. Russian had a chance to reach for gold back in 2013, after winning two first rounds, but a serious injury at the halfway point of the cycle forced him to withdraw from further rivalry.

It was an extremely unfortunate season for Russian, because he was also doing well in the Grand Prix series, so automatically he lost his chance to grab the World Champion title.

In the next seasons, Russian resigned from starts in GP and decided to focus only on Euro Championship. Effects came quickly - in 2014 he reached for gold. Even though, it looked like it hadn't been enough for him - one year later, he repeated this achievement and became the first rider in the history to grab two golds in a row.

While looking at his attitude in the Euro championship, one could say, he just got what he had planned earlier. It's not hard to imagine how strongly he needed it. His achievements improved his mental zone a lot. Thanks to them, he realized that after such a serious injury, he still can go toe to toe with world's top riders or even got himself to the top.

Third gold in a row and an absolute dominance in Europe didn't happen though, because in the next season, Russian toned it down a bit, and it was Nicki Pedersen shining the most now. In fact, Dane had waited for this title like noone else. In the previous three seasons, he would always got himself in the top three ahead of the last round and regularly reached for the medals, but not even once he was able to top the podium. As you can's fourth time lucky. In 2016, Nicki Pedersen got himself to the top, using his own, different way. This time, before the last round, he wasn't put among the favourites to reach for medal. What's more, he had to fight for securing a spot in the series, because he was ninth overall back then, losing six points to the leader. Not so good performances in the first three rounds let everyone thought that in his racing there would not have been any breakthrough, but that's exactly what happened.
Pedersen exploded with his form during the final round in Rybnik. In the whole round, he lost only one point, which let him catch up all his loss and reach for the European Champion title. This trophy was lacking in his rich collection, including medals of world championship individually and in team meetings. Since then, Dane could boast a complete set of the most precious achievements in international rivalry, but most probably not even for a second there came a thought of feeling a fulfilled rider.

In the next season, we witnessed one of the biggest surprises in the Euro Championship. Gold was reached by Andzejs Lebedevs, who hadn't been treated as one of those who could've done so. His statistics weren't convincing - he had had two full seasons in Speedway Euro Championship, but ended on 10th and 9th position. However, we found out how speedway can be surprsing.

In the Polish extraleague, Lebedevs didn't shine as well, but in the SEC 2017 he was simply unrivaled. Even though he didn't win any of the single rounds, he reached for the crown. Through the whole cycle, he didn't get himself out of the podium, with three second positions and one third. This regularity got him on the path to the top.

There had been talks about Lebedevs that he has a great potential, but couldn't have confirmed it on an international level, like in the Junior World Championship, where he didn't get any medal. As it turned out, he recouped it with European title, which noone can take away from him.

Never though, in the next season, he wasn't able to be back to this form which led him to the top.

Last year brought an explosion of Leon Madsen's form. Before the season, it had been Jarosław Hampel treated as the main candidate for gold and as it turned out, he was even leading the stake at halfway point of the series. Although, later on, he had to accept Dane's superiority. Madsen showed a better and more equal disposition, which let him lead the overall classification and then reach for gold. An interesting fact is that Madsen made the biggest advantage over second rider in the history of Speedway Euro Championship.

It was definitely a breakthrough moment for Dane - he had already been part of Euro Championship before, but he was far from the level to join a fight for medal positions. At the same time, he was slowly becoming one of the best riders in the league, so this individual lack of achievements could've left everyone with slight sense of insufficiency. After some time, however, he finally translated his league form to international meetings, thanks to which he got the crown of Europe and now he's fighting for the world championship.

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