Tuesday, March 28, 2017
   
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Poland in Olympic Games: A Historical Review

As soon as Poland regained independence after WWI, Polish sportsmen started competing and winning medals in Olympic games. The first Olympic games with Polish presence were in Paris in 1924. Polish team was quite numerous, 75 people and we received already 2 medals - one silver for team biking/cycling and one bronze for equestrian individual showjumping. First two golden medals were won 4 years later in Amsterdam, 1928 by Halina Konopacka in discus and Kazimierz Wierzynski for dart competition and the poem "Olympic Laurel".

The best performance of Polish team was in early seventies. In Munich, 1972 and Montreal 1976 Poland was at 6-7 position among all countries. The amount of medals gained by Polish is not lower now, but since there are more competitions and distributed medals we are usually beyond the first tenth (Atlanta Poland ranked 11 with 7 gold, 5 silver and 5 bronze medals).

Polish attended 16 Olympic games before Sydney not including the 1984 games (Los Angeles) which was boycotted along with other Eastern Bloc countries. We are strong performers, before Sydney we were 14th team on the all-time medal winners list with a total of 227 medals including 50 gold. The medals' contribution was never higher than 5% for Polish but usually 1 medal is attributed for every 10 fighting sportsmen. Poland is the 4th ranked Olympic boxing nations just behind USA, Soviet Union and Great Britain. The Poles have won 43 medals in this sporting (box), including an amazing 26 bronze medals, more than even the Soviet Union and Great Britain. The golden boxing team with coach, Feliks Stamm is in the past. Fencing and weightlifting have also been sports where Polish athletes have attained numerous medals. Poland was also strong in track and field sports with our many times record champion and runner Irena Szewinska.

Poland is usually much stronger during summer than winter Olympic. We won medals only during three Winter Olympic. The most spectacular was a gold medal of Wojciech Fortuna in ski jump in Sapporo, Japan 1972. It was not only surprising because Polish team was not a favorite but also Fortuna was not seen as the strongest point in Polish team. This medal was exactly the 100th Olympic medal of our team. For the further medals in winter Olympics we needed to wait exactly thirty years. A Polish skier, Adam Malysz, won two medals in ski jump also. Read more about it in the article Poles in Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games 2002.

In the present time we still have good, solid place (10-15) in Olympic competitions and a decent share of medals but the disciplines where we receive the most medals are different. During the last Olympic games (Atlanta) we received medals in rowing, kayaking, men's walking, riffle shooting and even gymnastics. It seems also that we receive more gold and silver than bronze medals now, since we are better in other disciplines than box (in these discipline the distribution of medals is 1-1-2, that means 2 bronze with one fold and 1 silver). Poland also preserves medal position in men's and women's weightlifting, fencing and track and field competitions. Olympic is also great event for Poles abroad since it makes us proud when we can hear our national anthem played and Polish men and women on the medal podium. Somebody stated that Olympic is a modern war between nations but without bloodshed.

Recommended reading(s):

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

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