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'I want to be the greatest' - speedway's Ironman Woffinden targets seven titles

The Scunthorpe rider won his third world title in October and is now focused on his next "stupid goals".

Seven world titles and a sub-10 hour Ironman triathlon are the next targets for Tai Woffinden, the reigning world speedway champion driven by an insatiable desire to execute ever more improbable sporting goals.

The dirt had no sooner been brushed from his race-suit after winning his third world crown in front of scores of thousands of fans in Torun, Poland, in October, than the 28-year-old from Scunthorpe was targeting back-to-back crowns and, ultimately, the seven that will make him the greater rider in the history of the sport.

Only two previous riders – the great Scandinavians Tony Rickardsson and Nicki Pedersen – have secured two in a row since the title evolved to be decided by its current Grand Prix Series in 1995.

Tai Woffinden in action
Tai Woffinden in action (Taylor Lanning)

Yet Woffinden's already daunting itinerary, involving weekly trips to Sweden and Poland when the season gets underway, is complicated by an imminent quest to combine his pursuit of speedway greatness with a full Ironman later this year.

"I just set myself stupid goals," Woffinden told Press Association Sport as he paused for breath on his return to Scunthorpe Scorpions this week, the club with whom he began his professional career in 2006.

"I've just signed up for an Ironman, so I'll have six weeks to prepare for it once the season's finished. I think if you haven't got a goal that's nearly untouchable, it's not really a goal worth having.

"Obviously I want to achieve my goals and I normally do. I've become the best British rider so now I want to win seven titles and become the greatest of all time.

"It's so hard to win back-to-back titles but I've done everything I can to physically prepare myself.

"My first priority is to win the world title again. Then I can celebrate by hurting myself in an Ironman."

Woffinden's relentless appetite for new challenges can be traced back his childhood in Perth, western Australia, where he became one of the country's youngest taekwondo black belts at the age of just 11.

The same day he was awarded the accolade, Woffinden abruptly gave up on the sport, turning instead to speedway and taking after his father Rob, who had been a popular rider for a number of British clubs before relocating his family to Australia after Tai was born.

"I said, I'm going to get my black belt then I'm going to finish," added Woffinden. "I'd already had enough of it by then.

"I hung up all my gear then six months later I saw a speedway bike, and that was that."

Rob Woffinden died of cancer in 2010, three years before his son won his first world title. Clearly his death affected the young Woffinden, by then a top-level rider with Wolverhampton, fuelling his desire to live his life to the full.

Taylor Lanning
World speedway champion Tai Woffinden is not motivated by money (Taylor Lanning)

"All my mum and dad did all their life was overpay their mortgage to get it paid off, they paid it off and a year later my dad got diagnosed with cancer," recalled Woffinden.

"So they didn't get the chance to enjoy their life together mortgage-free. It kind of changes your outlook on life when something like that happens.

"I couldn't care less about money. If Brexit happened and all my bank accounts got cleared out I'd be like, whatever, it is what it is."

Woffinden is a popular figure in Poland, where the sport is hugely popular, averaging attendances of over 5,000 for regular league matches which can swell significantly for the season-ending finals.

Tai Woffinden
Tai Woffinden wants to be the greatest rider in speedway history (Taylor Lanning)

If his profile back home is restricted mainly to its more low-key speedway towns, that lack of public recognition – and with it the inevitable, annual absence from the shortlist for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award – is not something that causes Woffinden to lose much sleep.

"I'm no Lewis Hamilton or Anthony Joshua but I do get stopped in Tesco and in Poland I can be sitting outside having my lunch and everyone is coming up wanting a picture or an autograph," he said.

"I will always find time for my fans but the other stuff doesn't matter to me. If it's about personality they obviously don't know who I am.

"I couldn't care less – it's just another nice little trophy to stick with the rest of them in the loft."

Tai Woffinden
An Ironman triathlon is next for Tai Woffinden (Taylor Lanning)

Woffinden is scheduled to release his autobiography in September and is also pressing forward with plans to set up a charitable foundation. Finally, he concedes, his ultimate ambitions may become a little more modest.

"I'm pretty unpredictable with the things I do," he admitted. "Sometimes I just roll the dice and go with it.

"But I reckon my biggest goal is to finish building the house we live in in Australia. There's tons of work that's gone into it so far and I've been building it myself.

"I'm not going to be riding speedway bikes for ever. Once I'm done with my life here and reached my target I'll just go back to Australia and switch off from it all and slot into normal life."

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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
JapanJapan124521
ChinaChina115824
United StatesUnited States1011930
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia78520
AustraliaAustralia61916
Great BritainGreat Britain56516
Today's Olympic highlights header

Thursday's key events


ROWING
· Comeback queen and super-mum Helen Glover goes for her third Olympic gold alongside Polly Swann in the women's pair final (1.30am)
· There is also a medal on offer for GB pair Emily Craig and Imogen Grant in the lightweight women's double scull final (2.10am)

SWIMMING
· As second-fastest qualifier for the final, Team GB's James Wilby is among the medal contenders in the men's 200m breaststroke (2.44am)
· Alys Thomas takes part in the women's 200m butterfly final, although he faces a difficult task to challenge for the medals (3.28am)
· Caeleb Dressel of the USA has been touted by some as the successor to Michael Phelps, and he has the chance to notch up a fourth Olympic gold in the men's 100m freestyle final (3.37am)

RUGBY SEVENS
· After Team GB's men narrowly missed out on a medal, the women get their campaign underway against the Russian Olympic Committee (3am) and New Zealand (10.30am)

HOCKEY
· It is a Great Britain vs. Netherlands double-header, with the men up first in Pool B (4.15am)
· Most eyes will be on the women's showdown between the two nations, though, as Netherlands - the world's best team - look to gain revenge on GB for defeat in the 2016 Olympic final (11am)

CANOE SLALOM
· Mallory Franklin takes part in the women's canoe semi-final, and will hope to do enough to qualify for the final later in the day (6am-8.45am)

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS
· With Simone Biles now out of the women's all-around final, the competition has been blown wide open. Team GB twins Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova are among those taking part (11.50am-2.05pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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