Exclusive by Phil Lanning
THE Rocket has turned into the Bolt.
Emil Sayfutdinov is racking up gold medals like legendary sprinter Usain. But just that bit quicker.
The red-hot Russian delivered his fourth gold at the Monster Energy FIM Speedway of Nations just a couple of weeks ago.
That was to go with two World Under-21 titles and the SoN he first won a year ago. When you add in a couple of Euro golds and multiple league titles in Poland and Sweden, he’s now the magnificent motorcyclist with the Midas Touch.
But while Sayfutdinov has a stack of gold bullion more than the Italian Job bus hanging off the side of a cliff, he’s missing one piece from his glorious collection.
That’s the individual World Championship gold.
Russian Rocket Sayfutdinov has got a bronze, now he needs that to be shinier and two shades lighter and higher.
However, this spiritual, loveable racer takes it all in his stride.
He told me: “I quite like the comparison to Usain Bolt, I would definitely like nine gold medals. I am not as fast as him without a bike though!
“I think it’s funny, in some ways we are quite similar. He is very focused like me but also relaxed when he has to be and spiritual.
“Being able to switch off from sport is just as important as being very dedicated. You need head space all the time to make the right directions.
“I am more relaxed this year, definitely. I am very grateful of what I have achieved over the past couple of years.
“We have had good times at Unia Leszno and of course the two Speedway of Nations wins for Russia, I will never ever forget how good what a great feeling.
“It is very special to win for your country, sometimes even more than for myself. I don’t know but I’d like to be able to compare the feeling!
“I feel we had much more pressure to win this year in Togliatti, that was maybe much harder for us to accept. We didn’t want to let down our own fans. They didn’t put the pressure on, we put the pressure on ourselves.
“I think we knew how awesome it would be to win the Nations in front of our home fans. But we dare not dream about it.
“In the end it all worked out just perfect. It was tough and we had to really work hard to get to the final.
“However I felt we would win whichever gate positions. That feeling of going over the finish line was one of the best in my life.”
Sayfutdinov has emerged in the pacesetters now for the Grand Prix title as he chases down that elusive final gold medal.
But he refuses to get carried away with World Championship title talk. He added: “I have to be boring and say the usual thing, it’s one GP at a time.
“Right now we have a good set-up and better starts, but I know I have to improve all the time. Now though I feel very good on my bike.
“I must keep making GP finals now for the rest of the year. If I do that then I will be close to a medal and hopefully gold.
“In the past though things have changed so much at this point of the season. I was winning the Championship in 2013 and I got injured. So you can never expect it to be easy. But I will fight hard, always.”
Sayfutdinov is clearly ready for the sprint to the finish.
And maybe another glorious gold.