Young German driver says, 'Why not me?'

04:30 PM 19 Jul 2011 NZST
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Before 25 year old driver Michael Nimczyk - a resident of Willich, a small town near Dusseldorf in the western part of Germany - decided to become a professional driver he had already made two decisions: Not to become a professional soccer player (which nearly every young boy in Germany dreams of; Nimczyk injured a knee and had to stop playing soccer) and not to become an office clerk in a shipping company, which his parents intended for him after he had finished junior high school at the age of 16.

Nimczyk will represent Germany in the 2011 World Driving Championship, which will open on Sunday, July 31, at Harrah's Chester in suburban Philadelphia.

Although being part of a family of horse people for decades, Wolfgang Nimczyk, a German trotting trainer and his wife, Beate, a successful amateur driver, wanted their son to learn a profession outside the trotting industry, which has been declining in Germany since the end of the 1990s.

His on-the-job-training as an office clerk lasted only four weeks before Nimczyk became fed up with that profession. He knew that he wanted to work with horses and he convinced his parents to let him do so. In September 2003 he started as an apprentice in his father's stable and in May of the following year he got his license to drive horses. It did not take trainers long to recognize that this young fellow was a special talent with the reins, so he got a lot of good horses to drive. He managed to win 13 races until the end of the year and secured his first national title as the champion apprentice in 2004.

The following year was really marvellous. Nimczyk won 85 races -- which of course made him the champion apprentice for the second consecutive year -- and he was Germany's representative to the European Championship for Apprentices, which was raced in Bavaria, in which he also won his first continental title.

Nimczyk finished his apprenticeship in June 2006, but the amount of races he had won to that point -- 62 -- was enough to win the apprentice championship for the third time. During the second half of the year he competed against the best German professionals, won another 94 races and -- believe it or not -- finished third, dead-heating with Michael Schmid among journeymen.

Since then he has never placed worse than third. In 2007 he was just beaten by the outstanding driver Roland Hülskath, but in 2008 and 2009 he took his revenge and became Germany's dashwinning champion. Of course, that meant he would represent Germany in the European Championship for Drivers, raced in 2010 in Italy.

After winning the first two races it seemed as if he might become one of the youngest European champions, ever, but then one of the horses he was scheduled to drive, who would have been a hot favorite, was withdrawn shortly before the race and Italy's Enrico Bellei won the title.

His second place finish earned Nimczyk a ticket to the 2011 World Driving Championship, and although he has never driven a pacer and lacks international experience he is quite optimistic concerning his chances in the competition.

"The quality of the horses and the draw are always decisive in a drivers' competition," Nimczyk said. "I am well prepared, I have done a lot of video analysis of the American way of driving and someone has to win -- so why not me?"

Unfortunately, Nimczyk was injured at the beginning of June. When shoeing a horse he was struck by a hoof in his right hand and suffered a broken metacarpal bone, which forced him to race lightly prior to his trip to the United States.

Thus, he will likely not be one of the favorites in the tournament, but it could be careless to rule him out too early.

by Chris Warnke, for the USTA Web Newsroom

Courtesy of the US Trotting Association's Web Newsroom

Prix Sophie Marceau Donna Key 1:17,3 - Catsuit (Michael Nimczyk),  

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