‘All the pain was worth it’ for Rory Schlein as he makes speedway comeback after breaking his back
An emotional Rory Schlein held back the tears after completing his 10-month road to recovery in sensational style.
The King's Lynn Stars ace was almost left paralysed in May last year after suffering a broken back during a high-speed crash in Poland. He immediately defied medics to get back on his feet within weeks and begin a gruelling programme that he hoped would save his career.
On Saturday, the 31-year-old's dreams of taking to the track in competitive action again were realised when he took part in his first meeting since that almost life-changing day on the continent.
The inspirational Australian's return had the crowd in raptures before he produced a phenomenal display on his comeback to finish second in the Ben Fund Bonanza at Lynn's Adrian Flux Arena.
'I didn't sleep too much on Friday night,' said Schlein.
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'Everyone's only seen bits and pieces of what I've been doing and the stuff behind the scenes. The rehab. The training. The mental battles. The inner demons. It was just more than I could have hoped for. I can't describe it.
'It would have been nice to win. It was almost there. But it was just nice to be able to mix it with them boys, although I know everyone's blowing the cobwebs out so I can only take it with a pinch of salt. But it was nice.'
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Belle Vue Aces' Craig Cook, who was unbeaten on the night, just held off Schlein at the line in the final to win the British scene's annual curtain-raiser in aid of the Speedway Riders' Benevolent Fund – a charity that supports racers and retired riders who have become injured or ill through their line of work.
Bjarne Pedersen came third and Lynn's Robert Lambert fourth. There were plenty of other encouraging signs for home fans on the night as Mads Korneliussen picked up a second in one of his four outings and was on his way to a race win before hitting a rut on the final turn and falling. Event reserve and Stars new-boy Kai Huckenbeck showed plenty of promise during his first appearance at Saddlebow Road.
Thankfully injuries to Simon Stead (concussion) and Krzysztof Kasprzak (collarbone) – which forced them out of the action – were not as serious as feared during a showcase that was won by Cook, but belonged to Schlein.
The Aussie added: 'To almost win the first race – they were all pretty emotional – was great but it was the second race when I won it.
'I made a good start, an aggressive first corner and it was just a reminder this was why I went through all the pain, the hassle and the hard work. Trophies and money are great but nothing compares to that winning feeling.'
Schlein continued his comeback yesterday by scoring nine points at Ulrich Ostergaard's 10-year testimonial meeting at Peterborough. King's Lynn's temporary number one Niels-Kristian Iversen won the event with 15 points while Stars team-mate Korneliussen bagged four and Stars' number eight Simon Lambert six.