By James Black
From the minute Bartosz Zmarzlik claimed his maiden Grand Prix win in Gorzow in 2014 he seemed destined to book his place in Speedway history. In fact on that very night he became the youngest rider to win a GP round at just 19 years and 140 days old and firmly announced his arrival on the world stage.
As we know, just five years later in 2019 he would become only Poland's third World Champion following in the footsteps of Jerzey Szczakiel (1973) and Tomasz Gollob (2010).
After successfully defending his title this season he was etching himself into the record books by becoming the first Polish rider to win more than one world title as well as only the third man to win back to back championships in the Grand Prix era, joining elite company in Tony Rickardsson (1998/99 and 2001/02) and Nicki Pedersen. (2007/08).
There won't be many betting against Zmarzlik winning a third world title on the bounce and he will most likely start the 2021 season as a red hot favourite. But before a wheel is turned in 2021 Bartosz Zmarzlik is set to become one of the highest paid riders in Polish Ekstraliga history.
It has been reported that Stal Gorzow will pay Zmarzlik over 1 million Zlotys (approx £210,000) as a signing on fee alone and he will earn 8000 Zlotys (approx £1500) for every point he scores. If Zmarzlik scores ten point a meeting he will earn around 80,000 Zlotys (approx £15,000) per meeting.
With 14 meetings in the regular Ekstraliga calendar which translates to around 1.1 million Zlotys (approx £210,000) over the course of the season. Hypothetically if he were to score an 18 point maximum in every meeting he would earn over 2 million Zlotys (approx £375,000) on top of his signing on fee.
There is little argument that the numbers are eye watering but by the same token Zmarzlik is obviously a proven performer who has been extremely loyal to his hometown club and he certainly is set to be rewarded for that loyalty.
It had been reported that Moto Lublin were willing to offer Zmarzlik a similar bumper deal with flights by light aircraft to and from meetings thrown into the deal, however there were concerns over potential lost sponsorship for Zmarzlik in the event of a move away from Gorzow.
Stal Gorzow president Marek Grzyb has faced criticism from some sectors but he is adamant that this huge deal will work out well for both club and rider, mainly in part thanks to the rise of Zmarzlik being the catalyst for a rise in the popularity of speedway in Gorzow and the surrounding area.
Grzyb would also state that this type of deal would only ever be on the table for Zmarzlik due to his commitment to the club and immense popularity with the fans. That is extremely difficult to argue against as Zmarzlik is easily the only Polish rider to garner the sorts of reactions and almost cult like following from the fans that Tomasz Gollob used to receive at the height of his popularity.
As well as leading the charge in Gorzow's quest for Ekstraliga glory in 2021, Zmarzlik will also have a major say in who will be riding alongside him in the team, with Danish sensation Marcus Birkemose rumoured to be occupying the under 24 rider slot in the team alongside fellow countryman Anders Thomsen.
It is also thought that Niels Kristian Iversen will make way for Slovakian rider Martin Vaculik, who returns to the club after a spell with rivals Zielona Gora. Zmarzlik is said to have played a major part in convincing Vaculik to return as well as convincing Szymon Wozniak to stay with the club despite tempting offers from rival clubs.
The big money deal for Zmarzlik clearly comes with added responsibilities, even perhaps with an eye on the future beyond his racing days. With these added responsibilities comes added pressure but Zmarzlik has proved time and time again that he can be more than cool when the heat is on.
That ability to cope with that pressure is exactly is why he is a two time world champion and that is why he is now the highest paid speedway rider in the world.
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Until next time...and there will be a next time.