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ready for the top after up fast as Britain's next big

When Robert crossed the finish line to become Speedway European Champion in Torun last week, the scene in the stadium was somewhat subdued.

Instead of being packed with screaming fans, the 15,550 capacity stadium was at just 25% capacity as Poland deals with the coronavirus pandemic.

Amongst those unable to be in attendance and bask in ’s glory were parents Helen and Paul, but it is a fair bet that their celebrations back home in Norfolk could have carried over to mainland Europe.

“It was obviously a shame they couldn’t be there, but I know they were all watching back home and as excited as I was,” told the Daily Star Sport. 

the meeting I was super pumped and excited about it, but it was straight back into league racing the day.

“Obviously I’ve had some time to reflect on it and look back at it. Now I’ve had a few days off I’ve been able to really think about what I achieved over those five rounds.

“It was something special for me and it’s something awesome to have to my name, for sure.”

claimed the biggest win of his career when he won the European title last week

Whilst they were unable to be in attendance on the biggest night of his career so far, knows he owes a huge debt of gratitude to his parents.

He was just 14 when they upped sticks and moved to Germany in order to further his career, allowing him to take a 500cc licence a year before reaching the required age to ride a full-sized bike in the UK.

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Despite speedway bikes having no brakes, ’s natural gift was evident on two wheels and his family were fully supportive in allowing him to jump straight in.

“I went over to Germany at a young age to do some practising, and they obviously saw something in me and hooked me up with a German licence,” recalls. 

“I was only young so it was a big call but we moved out there so I could race on the full-size bikes a lot earlier than I would’ve been able to in the UK.

“It gave me another boost in my career, being able to race against much better calibre riders and being on a 500cc a couple of years earlier than a lot of people.

“I think looking back, that was a big step and gave me a lot of experience early on and it’s just been an upwards curve ever since I first went over there.

“Things have progressed year on year and here we are! They (family) are by my side all the time and they have been right up until now.

“I know they’ll always support me and help me in everything I do. They’ve put a lot of time, money and effort into things.

“It was a big decision they made, going out to Germany so I could ride over there when I was a teenager.

was put on a -track to the top thanks to plenty of family sacrifice

“There was a lot of sacrifice from them to get me out there and get me into a position where I could compete at a good level and make the best out of what I love doing.

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“I can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done for me, it’s just nice to now be able to repay them by doing well and fully making them proud.”

When first returned from Germany, he was followed by an air of mystery and excitement wherever he went.

There had been whispers of the British teenager claiming some impressive scalps in open meetings in Germany at just 15-years-old but few had seen him in action for themselves.

When he did turn 15, he joined local club King’s Lynn, lining up for their junior side, the Young Stars, in the National League.

In the early days, it was clear he had a target on his back and , still just a kid at the time, was forced to grow up .

“I felt it (the pressure) a bit,” he admits. “It seemed like there was a bit of a bullseye on my back, and riders wanted to try and push me about and rough me up a little bit.

“They wanted to show me they were in that game and I was obviously just a new kid coming along.

“It was tough at times, but I was having to give back as much as they were giving to me and I think it meant that me and the other riders gained a lot of respect for each other pretty quickly.

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“From the spectators and fans there’s always that kind of pressure. As a British lad coming through and doing well, they want riders to succeed and do well for British speedway.

He had to deal with plenty of pressure as a teenager who was tipped for big things

“I think there was and still is some pressure that comes with that, but I’m used to dealing with that now and it’s just all part of the sport.”

The following year, was instantly thrown into the top flight with the King’s Lynn Stars.

Such was the level of his talent that the club delayed their early season fixtures to ensure he could feature turning 16, the minimum age to compete at that level, on April 5. 

He quickly rose through the ranks to become a top performer and captain of the Stars, also winning his first senior British Championship in 2018.

But last year saw the first bump in the road of a career that was largely plain sailing until that point.

He appeared in eight out of 10 rounds of the Speedway Grand Prix series as first reserve, stepping in for any injured riders. 

The jump to the biggest stage, particularly without adequate time to prepare, proved a step too far for youngster.

He managed just 39 points and finished 15th in the World Championship, also experiencing a tough campaign at domestic level. 

That experience makes his resurgence to win the SEC even more remarkable, earning a full-time spot in the 2021 Grand Prix series as a well-deserved reward.

struggled as first reserve in the Grand Prix series last year

“Last year was pretty tough,” says. 

“It was hard going into the Grand Prix’s not being fully prepared and ready then it was just one thing another.

“It didn’t go the way we wanted it to, it was the first real bad year I’ve had really so it was tough mentally at times.

“But we just refocused, worked hard over the winter to get things ready for this year and it seems to be paying off.

“It’s been a strange year, obviously with everything that’s happening, coming over to Poland, having to quarantine when we arrived then riding with no crowds at first.

“It’s pretty different to flying around here, there and everywhere, riding in three leagues and doing all the travelling.

“But it’s been a great experience, I’ve been riding well for Rybnik and learning all the time so it’s 

been really positive so far. 

“We’ll just keep things rolling how they are and now we can already start thinking about things for year knowing I’ve got a GP spot.”

The Great Britain star is impressing in Poland this year and in the form of his life

is clearly returning to the biggest stage as a stronger character both on and off the track.

He will take inspiration from fellow Brit Tai Woffinden, who was thrust onto the Grand Prix stage far too soon in 2010 only to come back and claim a stunning World Championship win on his return in 2013.

Ultimately, the goal is to secure a top eight finish to consolidate his spot amongst the world’s elite – but he can’t help thinking of a title bid. 

On the evidence of his SEC win, beating last year’s World Championship runner-up Leon Madsen to the crown, he has every right to dream.

“Obviously the goal for every rider is just to try and stay in for the year , that’s the main objective,” declared. 

“That silverware at the end is what’s looking good though. Being on that podium and ultimately being on the top step as world champion is where every rider is trying to get to at that level.

“Of course I know now how tough it is, I saw that last year, but I feel like I’ve learnt a lot from that experience and ultimately I want to be fighting at the top.

“Whether that’s year or a bit later on we’ll have to wait and see, but the minimum is just to try and get into that top eight so that I can establish myself and keep my place for the following year.

(left) eventually beat last year’s World Championship silver medalist Leon Madson (middle) to the SEC top spot

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“It was pretty incredible what Tai did (in 2013), and I guess it reminds you what can happen in speedway.

“Last year was all about learning, I took a lot from that and now I’m going to be taking all those lessons into the Grand Prix’s year.

“I think I needed those setbacks last year in order to move forwards again, and that’s showing this year with my performances at the moment.

“I feel like I’ll be going in as a better rider for the struggles I had in 2019 and with a lot more experience, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Before focus turns to his Grand Prix return, will join forces with Woffinden in a bid to end Great Britain’s 31 year wait to be on top of the speedway world again.

The pair are expected to fly the flag in the FIM Speedway of Nations in Manchester on October 24, a meeting still set to go ahead albeit behind closed doors.

“We’ve got a good chance the way things are going, and I’m really excited to have the final in our home country,” stated. 

fully we can get it in front of some fans, I don’t really know exactly what the situation is over there at the minute.

will join forces with Tai Woffinden as Britain battle for Speedway of Nations glory in September

“It’s a long way away and we’ve got a lot of racing between now and then, but me and Tai are both out in Poland and riding well.

fully we can stay injury free and go all the way, that’s what we’re aiming for.” 

The duo fell agonisingly short of glory in the inaugural Speedway of Nations in Wroclaw, Poland in 2018.

They topped the scorecharts over the two-day event only to be beaten in the final as the format worked against them.

But with new management running the Team GB programme and exciting times ahead, believes they are primed to announce their arrival back to the big time.

He added: “It was really tough to take (in 2018) because we won on points over the whole meeting, but just because of one race we didn’t get the trophy.

“It was frustrating and upsetting at the time, it was hard to take, but looking back I think it just wasn’t the right time for us.

“Team GB was moving in a new direction getting taken over and if we’d set that goal to win it then I think everyone would agree it would’ve been too early.

“We weren’t really expected to challenge that year, but that disappointment coming so close has given us something to push for.

“A lot of work has gone on with the youth, getting riders coming through and building for the future so everything is looking positive.

Great Britain suffered heartache in the Speedway of Nations event in Poland two years ago

“It just makes us keen and eager to try and do our part in the Speedway of Nations later this year to try and get a gold medal and show everyone that the future is bright.” 

The Speedway of Nations will mark ’s only appearance on home soil in 2020 the British season was officially cancelled last month due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And fans will will resist the urge to follow the lead of Woffinden and other top flight stars by ditching British speedway to focus on the Grand Prix series.

Asked if he plans to return to hometown club King’s Lynn for a seventh straight season in the SGB Premiership in 2021, said: “A lot of things have changed, and I didn’t really expect to be in this position so far in advance.

“Everything has turned on its head with qualifying for the GPs, so it’s something I need to think about in the winter and evaluate everything to see what’s best for me.” 

Regardless of his plans at club level season, seeing another British rider on the biggest stage and with a bright future is a welcome boost for a sport hit harder than most by recent events. 

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