Tuesday, May 23, 2017
   
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Poles in Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games 2002

Salt Lake City Olympic will be remembered for many reasons. First of all because of the corruption scandal that revealed the dark site of the International Olympic Committee and towns and nations who compete to win the right to organize the games. The article in the BBC explains the scandal in which large sums of money were paid by SLC top officials to members of the International Olympic Committee to secure the bid.

The Olympic games took place in unfavorable time, a half of a year after the terrorists attack on the WTC towers so the security the organizers undertook surpass the previous games. Besides, many people were just too scared to participate in the Olympic games. The games were plagued by the problems with judging, especially in respect towards Canadian figure skaters, later also towards Russians and Koreans.

We also need to remember that Salt Lake City is not just the average American town. The world headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are there in Salt Lake also, two top man in the organizing committee were also members of the LDS church as well as the majority of the volunteers and guides for sportsmen and tourists. There was a suspicion that the LDS Church is going to use Olympics to spread Mormon faith.

For Poles the Olympic Games would be forever remembered mainly because of our ski jumper, Adam Malysz. Poles do not have rich traditions in winter sport. The last Olympic medal, gold was won in 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympic Games by Wojciech Fortuna in ski jump. But it was a one time luck of our otherwise quite average ski jumper. With Malysz it is a different story.

He won a Four Hills Tournament which is a very prestigious competition gaining more points (over 1000) than anybody before him. He is leading among all ski jumpers around the world in the amount of points when I write this article (March, 2002). Malysz was also chosen the second best sportsman of EUROPE in 2001 by European sport journalists. In spite of Malysz's position of hero in Poland this 24-year-old Pole is still a modest and down-to-earth person.

Malysz was needed for Poles in the present situation of high unemployment and corruption scandals that shake Poland of post-communists era. "He perfectly embodies the underdog, the little guy who triumphs against the odds" (Ref.1).

Malysz caused that many Americans of Polish origin decided to participate in the Olympics. They applauded his performances among with our most distinct guest who was carrying the Olympic flag into the stadium, Lech Walesa. There were some problems among Poles in Salt Lake since after Malysz's medal Lech Walesa was not invited for a celebration by Polish Olympic Commitee whose leader is a friend of Polish president, Kwasniewski. It is publicly known that Kwasniewski and Walesa do not like each other too much...

Frankly, many were worried that Malysz won't be able to stand the pressure and he may have bad days here in Salt Lake. It happened to him in the past, he did have some bad seasons. These predictions happily did not fulfill. Malysz did not win the gold, the Swiss ski jumper Ammann had two best jumps on the bigger and smaller ski-jump. Nevertheless Malysz presented the good form winning first the bronze and later the silver. Malysz ran into bad luck on his first jump. He got off to a brilliant start, exploding off the jump to soar 98.5 meters through the air. But after landing, he caught a ski in a rut that had been carved by a previous jumper's fall and stumbled badly, costing him precious style points.

Thanks to Malysz we won two medals in these games. We were close to the third one since Jagna Marczulajtis was in the final of snowboards, unfortunately her fall in the very last section of run prevented her from the medal. Our sport figure skaters, Mariusz Siudek and Dorota Zagorska were 7th. They could do better because they were winning medals in European and World Championship.

The problem for many Polish sportsmen is a lack of the good facilities for training in Poland. Not everybody can afford to train abroad. So, it seems that 2 medals, 23 points and 15 sportsmen in first 20th positions is a success for today.

Check the most recent article about the Olympic Games in Athens (2004) and a total medal count. Read the previous articles about the Summer Olympics in Sydney, 2000 and about the Polish in Olympic Games - historical Review

Recommended reading(s):

Chasing the American DreamI recommend a book written by Thomas M. Tarapacki Chasing the American Dream: Polish Americans in Sports

Ancient OlympicsAnd another one by Judith Swaddling, The Ancient Olympic Games

References:

1. Malysz - fulfills the need for an Idol

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