Danish speedway has had golden periods and collected many medals, but 30-year-old Leon Madsen has an ambition that no one has achieved before. He will be both world champion and European champion, in one and the same season.
By Ib Søby
When Vojens Speedway Center begins a new era with Jacob Olsen on Saturday night as head and organizer, the eyes of all the audience and TV viewers will rest on Leon Madsen. The Dane, who has taken the World Cup Grand Prix series by storm, has a good result in Vojens also the opportunity to repeat his European triumph from last year.
The fairytale poet HC Andersen's tale of the ugly duckling who turns into a swan may well suggest certain parallels to Leon Madsen. In 2001 Vejledrengen became the 13-year-old YGT champion (the unofficial 80cc World Cup) precisely in Vojens. Since then it went up and down, despite the obvious talent. Madsen is a bit of a blacksmith of his own, and thus not always best friends with his colleagues in the equestrian yard. For a number of years he ran for North Zealand's Slangerup in the Danish league and for British Poole. The U21 career was crowned with the World Cup silver in Gorzow in 2009.
- Already as a diaper child I sat on a small electric moped. My parents promised I could keep it if I dropped the diaper. It succeeded pretty quickly, because I was crazy about moving on two wheels. Later, my dad, Tage, took me to motocross, but it was now the speedway on the Vejlbybanen near Fredericia, which pulled, Leon Madsen remembers.
In line with the growing maturity as a speedway driver, Madsen has also endured a long series of injuries and surgeries that have at times put him back in development. The firing of the Danish senior national team, the night before the 2012 Målilla World Cup final, was also a bitter pill to swallow for Madsen.
He began to concentrate on Poland, creating a lonely existence in the speedway-happy country, while injuries and dizziness were still pressing. One transition was Leon Madsen's observation for lymphoma, and had a gland removed in his arm while a violent depression required medication.
The meeting with girlfriend Magda Bradtke - who gave birth to daughter Marika in March - has been crucial in Leon Madsen's transformation. Magda brought calm to the busy speedway everyday, and Leon found that he couldn't stand milk, eggs and chocolate. Slowly, he and Magda changed the rhythm of life with regular healthy eating, exercise and rest based on the residence of Gdynia.
- I've been far down, and now I've fought back. I feel really good again and I feel like I'm in a good place in my life. I'm 30 years old and I've never felt better, he says.
- I've been working really hard. I have built on, and given my training an extra skull. I thought I was training hard before, but it turned out I didn't. I've figured out what it takes to be at the top, and I can see that it bears fruit now.
Before long, mental profits and results in the Polish league began to emerge. The supreme victory in last year's European Championships with the finish in Katowice, Leon Madsen gave star status in the Polish speedway environment.
In the Polish league he has been among the most scoring drivers for several years, and his club, Czestochowa, has now been rewarded with a gold-bound contract which makes him one of the world's best paid speedway stars. Just over DKK 15 million he earns Danish kroner on his new three-year contract with the club. In addition, sponsorship support and prize money.
The back as an opponent
At the same time as his new status as one of the world's hottest speedway names, Leon Madsen is struggling with his back these weeks. He has just been to MRI scanning, where doctors have recommended surgery immediately after the season's end in October.
- It is a disc prolapse, which in the middle of me, severely inhibits me. On Saturday I got a pain-relieving injection before the Wroclaw Grand Prix, and on Thursday I get a blockade before a club race on Friday and the European Championship in Vojens on Saturday, says Leon Madsen. These treatments are approved by the Danish Motor Union and Antidoping Denmark.
- My back is my worst opponent right now. The pain prevents me from exercising physically in my daily life, and thus there is a risk of losing my sharpness, acknowledges Leon Madsen, who's fingers crossed for the coming weekend.
The European Championship in Vojens is also his first performance on Danish soil this year.
- Of course, the World Cup title is my main ambition. But should this year not succeed, the EM series is an important alternative. I dare to dream of taking both titles, and I can promise all speedway fans that I will do everything I can to reach the goal, says Leon Madsen.
Leon Daniel Madsen
Born: September 5, 1988 in Vejle.
Place of residence: Gdynia in Poland.
Marital Status: Girlfriend with Magda and father of Marika.
Master Club: Vojens Speedway Club.
Tdl. clubs: Slangerup, Wroclaw, Tarnow, Poole and others
results: YGT - Youth World Cup 2001. U21 Team World Cup silver 2009.
Winner of the Extra Liga Riders Championship - one-day race for the season's 16 best drivers in the Polish league - in 2017.
European Champion 2018.
Grand Prize: Winner in Warsaw 2019. Five races in 2013 as reserve. A total of 10 Grand Prix races with 60 heats, 13 heats victories, 4 finals and 1 victory.
World Cup top position:
1. Bartosz Zmarzlik, Poland 61
2. Emil Saytfudinov, Russia 61
3. Leon Madsen, Denmark 61
4. Martin Vaculik, Slovakia 59
5. Patryk Dudek, Poland 55
6. Frederik Lindgren, Sweden 47
EM top position:
1. Grigory Laguta, Russia 27
2. Leon Madsen, Denmark 26
3. Nicki Pedersen, Denmark 19
4. Bartosz Smektala, Poland 19
5. Kacpar Woryna, Poland 18
6. Michael Jepsen Jensen, Denmark 16