Medals, records and successes are impressive, but the Olympians’ path to the top is also impressive. Especially since it can be winding and bumpy. In some cases, getting to training alone is a challenge. Material of the magazine “Polska i Świat”.
They did not always train in the conditions they dreamed of. Patryk Dobek was running in the garage. – It was during this pandemic, when there were strict regulations that it was impossible to exercise outside because there were closed stadiums – recalls Sławomir Dobek, father of the bronze medal winner from Tokyo.
The winding road to the medal
Tadeusz Michalik’s path to the medal was also long and winding. – His family home is in Jasieniec, four and a half kilometers from the hall. And Tadziu with his siblings, because his siblings also trained, they most often traveled this distance on foot or by bike – says Mieczysław Kuryś, Tadeusz Michalik’s first coach.
For teenagers, just getting to training was a real challenge. – The winters used to be really very cold. I had such an adventure with my sister that we were returning, her legs were freezing. She bought new shoes and it turned out that they did not keep warm, and she just cried for me that her legs were so cold – says Tadeusz Michalik, who won a bronze medal in classic wrestling in Tokyo.
Before training, the wrestler helped on the parents’ farm. But he always had the strength to wrestle. – He had to help and just went to training. As it is in the countryside, there has always been work – emphasizes the father of the medalist, Marian Michalik.
Financial problems of athletes
The sport itself is work for players, but without extra wages it is sometimes difficult to train. – An athlete is doing reasonably well if he or she is studying or being a student, because the university helps in some way, there is a scholarship. But then problems arise – admits Grzegorz Tomala, father of Dawid Tomala, a gold medalist from Tokyo.
Dawid Tomala started working after graduation. He quickly found out that it is difficult to reconcile it with training. – Before the Tokyo Olympics in 2019, he quit his job completely and devoted himself entirely to the preparations for the Olympics – says Grzegorz Tomala. – Fortunately, there are individual people who help in some way – he adds.
In less popular disciplines, money has always been a problem. The scholarships are not high. Only the best of the best get them. – Athletes are actually fighting all the time to survive. Year after year, it has to confirm, show the top eight and only then is it able to develop in this non-commercial sport – says four-time Olympic champion in walking, Robert Korzeniowski.
It’s hard to spread your wings without a sponsor
The athlete Benjamin Kuciński, Olympian from Athens in 2004, found out how difficult it is to break through without money. He took 12th place. Only medalists received scholarships at that time. – I started training half-heartedly, temporarily interrupting my studies, but I only went there sometimes. For the 500 PLN trabant I bought, I started to deliver a pizza, because it was a way of life – says Benjamin Kuciński.
Sławomir Napłoszek, 53, is today the oldest Polish representative in Tokyo. As he says, it is very difficult for players who do not have a sponsor to spread their wings. – I also happened to pay for the world cup myself to go. First, I had to win the right to compete to pay for this world cup – points out the archer.
Main photo source: PAP / Piotr Nowak