We mentioned already in the previous article Poles in Olympic Games - Medals Count that Polish sportsmen disappointed in Athen Olympic Games, 2004. Polish team consisted of 202 sportsmen and women, but they we received only 10 medals.
There were some nice surprises and new sport stars emerged. Let's start with these positive surprises.
Polish swimmer, Otylia Jedrzejczak, 20 years old became a Polish hero. She won 2 silver medals (100-m butterfly, and 400-m freestyle) and one gold medal in her big race with a wonderful finish - the 200-m butterfly.
We expected that Otylia will be able to win some medals to Poland, since she was already the author of several records and even the world-record holder, still Poland position in swimming was never strong, not that strong as the USA, Australia or Germany. The first Olympic medal (bronze) in swimming was won by a Pole not earlier than in Seoul, in 1988 by Artur Wojdat, who trained mainly abroad. Otylia was the first Polish woman who set a world record.
Otylia's success was great not only because of her sport achievements. She is a wonderful person, she was even selected one of the Time's European heros for 2004 because she decided to donate her gold medal in the auction - for the children sick on leukemia. She told her friend that if she would win gold, she would give it up. Otylia was inspired after reading a novel by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt called Oscar and the Lady in Pink, about a 10-year-old boy dying of leukemia. This was not an easy decision, Otylia actually cried after she realized that she would lose her medal which she worked so hard for. Still, the medal was auctioned for over 100 thousands in USD. Otylia became an instant national hero! Poles renamed olimpiada (which means olympic games in Polish) as otyliada.
Otylia is very religious and the Polish pope, John Paul II is for her an inspiration. She is very tall, 184 cm, blond and lives in Ruda Slaska, Silesia with her parents and a brother. She started swimming in the age of six from health reasons, she had a slight distortion of the spine. She is a great person and hopefully she would never get spoiled by fame. She just has too much work to do and too many goals to achieve!
Robert Korzeniowski was another great hero, he won Men's 50 km walk in Athens, finishing in 3:38.46.. Korzeniowski repeated his great success from the Olympic Games in Sydney four years ago. We wrote about it in the article Sydney - Polish Olympic Medals - Shooting - Kayak - weightlifting - walk . He did it in a great style as usual, he was first and way ahead his competitors on the finishing line at the stadium in Athens. Unfortunately the stadium was almost empty - only very few people were allowed to see his finish (among them Polish president, Kwasniewski) - Greeks just closed the stadium, probably from security reasons.
Robert Korzeniowski's success would not be possible is not his great discipline and a special diet (he ate only yogurts and fruit before the last walk). Unfortunately this victory marks the end of his career, he is 36 years old and prefers to leave now then wait until he would start losing.
Poles also won a gold medal in rowing - Tomasz Kucharski and Robert Sycz won Men's Lightweight Dbl Sculls. They repeated their success from four years ago in Sydney but this time their success cost them more effort. They were chased almost to the final line by French rowers, they were so exhausted trying to defend the gold that they were almost knocked down and speechless for a while after the race finished. The race was also harder on them since both could not participate in the training for a while - Sycz had a bad injury and Kucharski was sick on pneumonia.
Both Polish rowers natural weight is about 75-78 kg, but in order to qualify to this category they had to lose the weight to less than 70 kg, so they had to undergo strict and exhausted training and be on the diet. Still, their discipline helped them to win!