||Last Updated: Feb 4th, 2016 - 23:56:41
With excitement rising ahead of the start of the Astana Expo FIM Ice Gladiators World Championship the draw has been made by FIM for Final 1 to be held in Krasnogorsk, Russia on February 6th and 7th and. For the first time riders have been able to choose their own personal numbers which they will retain through the whole season.
Although the Russians are again expected to dominate the medal positions, there is much speculation about the final destination of the title which will be fought over as fiercly as in any recent series. The meeting marks the start of Dmitry Koltakov’s defence of the title he won last year for the first time and as champion he was seeded directly into the field so has avoided any problems in qualification. However his closest rivals have all made it to this stage and predicting a winner is no easy task.
The Russian Championship is usually a good guide to form and it was dominated once more by hard riding Nicolay Krasnikov, multiple World champion and Russian titleholder for the seventh time. Although no longer entering into the world championship he appears as the Wild Card in this first round only, at the track where he won the equivalent meeting last year.
Krasnikov is mentor to champion Koltakov and may be present in his pit place during later rounds but for this weekend he is a rival and is unlikely to give him any quarter on the track.
Koltkov was runner up for the Russian title but his arch-rival Daniil Ivanov surprisingly failed to make the podium after falling in the three man race off for the silver medal and it was Egor Myshkovets who took sixth place only one point behind the leading pack. The 20 year old who rides for the Ufa team in
the Russian Superleague has proved to be the rising star in Russia and there will be much interest in his progress in his first World Championship series.
With the experienced Igor Kononov and Dmitry Khomitsevich also in the line up, Russia will be confident that their riders will achieve a clean sweep of the medals.
There is also great excitement in Sweden over the emergence of the next generation of Ice Gladiators from the Land of the Lakes. Sweden has a proud tradition in this discipline but has not been able to take home a gold medal since ‘Posa’Serenius won in 2002. Three of their young hopefuls are racing in this years competition, Niklas Kallin Svensson, Daniel Henderson and Ove Ledström and their development is being encouraged by their Federation, keen to restore the great days of Swedish Ice Racing. Svensson is the son of veteran Stefan Svensson who is also taking part again and it will be the first time that a father and son have achieved permanent places in the same year.
Austria is another nation that has nipped at the heels of the Russian Bear in recent years. Franky Zorn is something of a legend in his home country and is riding once again at his best after a disappointing injury-hit season last year. He appears to be back to his best, opening the season undefeated in the first two rounds of the Swedish Leagus and winning the International meeting in Weissenbach last week. The Austrians also have their own rising star in the 23 year old Manfred Seifter from Salzburg, a protege of Zorn, who has made excellent progress this year.
Günther Bauer and Stefan Pletschacher remain Germany’s only representatives in the competition and will expect to improve on their early season form if they are to make any impression. Finland’s Anti Aakko returning from injury and Jan Klatovsky from Czech Republic take the remaining places and are two experienced campaigners who are capable of upsetting predictions at any time.
So with Ivanov determined to regain the title he lost last year, Kolkatov stoutly defending his number one ranking and ‘The Master’ Krasnikov still very capable of beating the best there are few wishing to predict the result but the three meet together in what promises to be a pulsating Heat 12 on Saturday and again in Heat 17 on Sunday, two races which are likely to determine the podium places for this meeting. Add to the recipe the remaining Russians, a couple of Austrians and a Swede or two then a mouth-watering start to the season in Krasnogorsk looks likely.
Racing starts at 15.00 hours local time on Saturday and 13.00 on Sunday with 23 action packed races on both days.
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