Schlein progresses, Harding a reserve
Australian wiz Rory Schlein has kicked off his 2004 Junior Speedway World Championship campaign with a hard-fought third place in the opening qualifying round at Rawicz in Poland on May 23.
The bespectacled 19-year-old, who was undefeated en route to winning his second consecutive Australian under 21 speedway championship at Undera Park (Vic) on January 31, now goes straight through to the semi-final stage of the world title, as he seeks to become the third Australian winner after Leigh Adams (1992) and Jason Crump (1995).
Schlein, from Hallett Cove in South Australia, won two of his five qualifying heats at Rawicz before finishing second in the opening semi-final behind local rider Robert Miskowiak. The latter's winning form then continued in the four-lap finale, with Schlein third behind another Polish rider, Piotr Swidesrki.
Meanwhile, the second of the four qualifying rounds was held at Daugavpils in Latvia, also on May 23, with Western Australian Trevor Harding scoring 6pts -- which was good enough for ninth overall after a countback with Latvian Kjastes Pudzuks, who finished on the same score.
With the countback awarded in the 17-year-old Aussie's favour -- he defeated Pudzuks when they met in the heats -- Harding will still progress to the semi-finals, but only as a reserve.
The two remaining qualifying rounds will be all over by June 6, after which the semi-finals will be held concurrently in Austria and Sweden on July 24. The championship decider is slated for Wroclaw in Poland on September 11.
Last year's junior world championship was won by Poland's Jaroslaw Hampel, who is now campaigning in the open world title -- with an immediate impact. Hampel was runner-up behind Crump at round two in the Czech Republic on May 15.