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Zmarzlik disqualified. Shocking behind-the-scenes come to light


WP SportoweFakty / Patryk Kowalski / In the photo: Bartosz Zmarzlik

Mateusz Puka

Bartosz Zmarzlik’s exclusion from the competition caused a huge scandal. There was even a fight between activists. It seems that the punishment was excessive, the first such punishment in history. The environment is boiling and there is talk of a fight for influence.

On Saturday, the Danish Grand Prix jury showed that even a trivial reason can turn out to be an excellent opportunity to influence the fate of the fight for the speedway world champion title. Bartosz Zmarzlik was not allowed to take part in the competition. He was disqualified after qualifying, not immediately but an hour after it, due to the inappropriate clothes in which he appeared on the track.

Effect? Instead of celebrating another gold medal, the Pole had to accept that before the final tournament of the Grand Prix series in Toruń, his advantage in the general classification had decreased from 24 to 6 points. And if he took a good, high place now, in two weeks’ time in the country, no one would take the world champion title from him.

Zmarzlik was so furious that he left the stadium before the competition started. No arguments helped to change the decision of the competition jury. This is the first time in the history of the GP when activists interfered so much in the sports competition.

But there were more opportunities, because the same provision could have resulted in the disqualification of Anders Thomsen, who celebrated his victory in the Polish Grand Prix in Gorzów last year by running around the track in… only boxers. According to the regulations, competitors must present sponsor advertisements within 30 minutes after the competition. Of course, it goes without saying that in that case no one even considered punishing the Dane.

WATCH THE VIDEO: He is surprised. He talks about the passivity of Fogo Unia and ZOOleszcz GKM

The confused outfits differ in two elements

The mistake with the selection of Kevlar occurred in absurd circumstances. Just before qualifying, Zmarzlik agreed to an interview with reporter Scott Nicholls for Eurosport’s international broadcast. The interview was filmed on the stadium pitch and ended just 15 minutes before the start of qualifying. The Pole hurriedly returned to his bus and took out the first Kevlar from his bag.

Unfortunately, he mistakenly took to the competition not only the one dedicated to GP tournaments, but also – confusingly similar – other individual competitions. The outfits differ only in the advertising on the chest. Neither Zmarzlik nor anyone on his team noticed it. Moreover, even if the Pole did not have the correct Kevlar with him, he could have started in the same one, but with the appropriate plastron. This is completely normal practice. The situation could have been fixed in a matter of seconds, if only someone had paid attention.

Castagna shirked his responsibility

However, there may be a deeper meaning to the matter. Such a radical decision and the mixing of business and sport are the result of a long-standing conflict between international activists and Poles.

Representatives of our speedway authorities want to do everything in the coming years to change the authorities of the World Motor Federation (FIM) in the key structures for this discipline. This would mean the end of the careers of most of the current high speedway officials.

For now, it is certain that this is the case Bartosz Zmarzlik the highest FIM authorities were involved. It turns out that before making the decision, the competitor’s entourage tried to intervene with the head of the FIM Track Racing Commission, Armando Castagni. The Italian, who happened to be absent this time during the competition, assured them over the phone that he did not intend to interfere with the decision of the competition jury. However, unofficially it is said that the activist had full knowledge and was kept informed about the next moves.

However, the director of the series was very active Phil Morriswhich – as we have already informed, he allegedly fought with the sports director of the series promoter, Jan Konikiewicz, in front of other competitors. Konikiewicz he was also said to have been forcibly removed by Morris from the meeting with the players, where the fate of Zmarzlik’s start was in the balance. Coaches of national teams were also not allowed to attend this match, as – as you can guess – they would be in favor of allowing the Polish player to compete. The purpose of these actions was to remove from the decision-making process all those who could influence Zmarzlik’s admission to the competition.

Players: give him a financial penalty, but let him go

The absurdity of the whole situation is best demonstrated by the fact that not only Zmarzlik himself was shocked by the confusion, but even his greatest rival, Fredrik Lindgren. As soon as the Swede learned about the plans of his compatriot, Tony Olsson (the head of the jury), he immediately decided to help… the Pole. They both entered the jury room, and Lindgren explained in the Pole’s presence that, as his rival, he wanted to fight for the gold medal under normal conditions. Both of them repeatedly asked for the disqualification to be changed to a high financial penalty.

The harsh treatment of the Pole is even more surprising because over the years it has happened many times that speedway riders walked around the park without plastrons and logos of appropriate sponsors. In such cases, the cycle authorities themselves reminded them of this obligation.

Moreover, the correct attire of the player must be approved by the referee. That was the case this time too. The referee looked at the back of the Kevlar and ignored the front. Although Zmarzlik was wearing the wrong Kevlar suit for several dozen minutes during qualifying, no one informed him about the illegal clothing. The Pole received information about the offense only an hour later.

However, the disqualification decision was not final. The world champion’s entourage was immediately instructed to file a protest, which costs 660 euros. The letter referred to a provision in the regulations that gives the competition jury the opportunity to change the penalty or even waive it. That’s what they were counting on. As the interested parties themselves admit, the protest was rejected after… a few minutes. No one even considered changing their decision.

The chairman of GKSŻ, who was present on the spot and, above all, a member of the FIM Track Racing Commission, was very much involved in the matter, Piotr Szymański. The activist pledged that he would fight for justice and try to clarify the matter after the tournament. However, the chances are minimal.

There is a growing regret among Poles that although for years the Grand Prix series has been run with our money, at the same time everything is being done to ensure that our opinions are not heard. Only Polish cities pay huge amounts of money for the rights to organize a single tournament (an average of PLN 2.5 million), our country hosts the largest number of rounds, and Polish companies sponsor the series. However, the reluctance towards Polish activists has been going on for a long time, and even the former national team coach, Marek Cieślak, speaks openly about it.

– We maintain discipline and activists from other countries do whatever they want with us. I remember what their faces were like when they had to hand us gold medals after the tournaments. Unfortunately, we are of little importance in international speedway – sums up the legendary trainer.

I feel sorry for the world champion’s team

Zmarzlik’s entourage assures that he has not had any serious conflicts with the cycle authorities so far. Although this year he was accused of going beyond the designated area when choosing starting fields, he has never seriously broken the regulations before. So there was no obstacle for this time to end only with a financial penalty and a serious warning.

Mateusz Puka, journalist of WP SportoweFakty

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