Norfolk rider who’s still champion of the world
- Credit: Phil Clarke of Ipswich Cycle Spe
This is the story of the Norfolk skid kid who became, and still is, champion of the world. Derek James reports
Standing on a podium in Poland with the trophy he had fought so hard to win was an emotional moment for our very own Paddy Wenn
as he was named the Grand Veterans World Cycle Speedway Champion.
“I was so proud. I never thought I would this would have happened to me,” said Paddy who won the title back in 2019 and he will remain champion until at least 2022 because of Covid restrictions.
“Looks like I will be the longest reigning world champion,” he laughed.
What an honour for this softly spoken, modest gentleman from Hellesdon who can ride a cycle speedway bike like the wind…and take on all-comers.
Not one to sing his own praises I only heard about his exploits following a recent story I wrote in the Through the Decades supplement in March which appears in our papers every Tuesday.
It was prompted by the plans by the Hethersett Hawks Cycle Speedway Club to launch a project called the Nest which aims to bring national and international competition to the village and provide world-class facilities for enthusiasts.
This illustrates so well how Norfolk has been at the beating heart of the cycle speedway world since the 1940s – and still is.
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I first wrote about Paddy, now aged 53, in 1998 when we told the story of the skids kids across the city and county. There were dozens of teams in Norfolk…and they were among the best in the land.
One of the skid skids was Paddy who told me at the time: “They were the best years of my life.”
And he added: “It left such a huge mark on my life and I hope I left a mark on cycle speedway. I certainly had a lot of fun,” he said.
Paddy was a member of the brilliant Norwich Stars and rode in two British finals – the under-18s in 1984 and the under-21s three years later.
“Going to those finals were the highlight of my life. It was the climax of every season when everybody, riders, family, friends and supporters all went off for the weekend.
“We roughed it in tents in the middle of nowhere and had some laughs. They were great days,” he said.
In 1992 Paddy, who went on to work in the building trade, packed up the sport to get on with the rest of his life…little did he think his cycle speedway days would return so many years later.
“I went back into the sport in 2012 to ride for Norwich Stars at Eaton Park, mainly to encourage my son Ciaran to race rather than sit in his bedroom playing video games,” he said.
They turned out to be a top father and son double act.
Paddy and Ciaran went on to be part of the victorious Great Britain team in the world championships in Australia in 2017. “That was a proud moment indeed,” he said.
The three top teams in the world of cycle speedway nowadays are Australia, Great Britain and Poland. The racing and the rivalry is fast and furious but once the races are over the friendship and relationship between the speedsters is very special.
Two years later power-packed Paddy was back representing Great Britain in the world championships this time in Poland, a country where cycle and motor cycle speedway is very popular, and attracts big crowds.
Paddy was on top form – taking no prisoners on the track. A class act along the rest of the team.
Great Britain won the Federation Cup beating the hosts and Australia but his proudest moment came the following day when he became the Grand Veterans World Individual Final after winning a string of races against some real tough guys.
“It my first ever major title. I was so proud. I never ever thought this would happen” said Paddy.
Then he had another problem – getting that big old trophy through customs.
Paddy is an inspiration to us all so if you fancy having a go at cycle speedway then now he is a great time to get involved. Take a look online to see where your nearest club is.
And remember – once a skid kid always a skid kid and a member of a great family.
Our thanks to Phil Clarke of Ipswich Eagles for his great pictures of the championships in Poland.