Sydney Olympic Games were successful for Polish olympic team although they were disappointing in the beginning and in the end of the games. We received 14 medals 6-5-3, three less than in Atlanta. Our team was located on the 14th position among the nations. Check also the articles about Poles in Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games 2002 and about Polish achievements in Athens.
For the first medal Polish fans have to wait almost five days! Some people were already very annoyed with our medal achievements (zero) at this point.
The first two medals, gold and silver were received on Tuesday, 19th of September. Gold was won by Renata Mauer-Rozanska in shooting, 3-position (in Atlanta she won bronze in this competition). Renata was shooting well in the beginning then she had a couple of poorer scores (below 10) after she was distracted by one of the camera-journalists whose cellular phone rang just before her shot. Renata was tied with two other competitors from Russia and Germany in qualifying rounds (after firing from the prone, kneeling and standing positions) but she was the only one with a shooting score 10 or better in the standing final. During the last olympic games in Atlanta Renata also won the first gold medal for Poland (as a matter of fact it was the first gold medal of that olympic games) but in 10-metre air riffle.
Our second and silver medal was won in Canoe/Kayak slalom by Kolomanski & Staniszewski. We had two teams in this slalom. After first round our other team, Mordarski & Wojs were on the third position. Kolomanski and Staniszewski rode too slow and careful and ended up sixth. But in the second round Kolomanski and Staniszewski did a very good job and were only surpassed by Slovaks and French teams. But French had problems with passing through one of the gates and where disqualified so the Poles took a second place.
The next two medals, also gold and silver were won two days later on Thurdsay, September 21. Agata Wrobel, 19, Junior World Champion weightlifter in category super-heavy weigh was expected to fight for medal. The only competitor, as usual was Chinese Ding Meiyuan. When the other women already finished their competitions these two women were just starting. The new world records were also achieved. Ding Meiyuan created a new world record totaling 300kg (135kg-165kg), Wrobel totalled 295kg (132.5kg-162.5kg.
The unquestionable hero of the Polish team was Robert Korzeniowski. Korzeniowski won two gold medals - in 20 and 50 km walk (21 and 29 September respectively) . Korzeniowski's favorite distance is 50-km, he won already gold in Atlanta. The walk for 20-km for him was a training and warm-up before "his" competition. Korzeniowski was really good and finished the walk as a second just a few steps behind Bernardo Segura from Mexico. But Segura was informed later, while being congratulated by a president of Mexico, about his disqualification for an infraction in the final 400 metres- under the rules the judge does not have to show the third warning (a red card) until the athlete has finished.
So, Korzeniowski won the gold. In 50-km walk Korzeniowski had no competitor. Korzeniowski stated that he was additionally motivated by his anger after receiving a warning from a judge, the same judge he receives warnings all the time. He finished over a minute earlier than the second walker from Latvia and became an Olympic champion again.
The second weekend of Olympic Games in Sydney was very successful for Polish team. We gained 2 gold and 2 silver medals.
On Saturday, 23 September, Polish women team won a silver medal in fencing (foil) . It is a biggest success of our women team in the Olympics. Polish team won easily Germany in semi-finals and could probably do a better job in finals but our girls were just scared to fight against a team of olympic champion and vice-champion.
On Sunday, 24 September, we gained 2 gold and 1 silver medals. Polish team Sycz/Kucharskiwon gold medal in men's weightleight double skulls rowing. Poles took a lead since the start, only Italian team was able to compete with Poles in the beginning of the race but in the end Poles were much better winning at one boat length. The day of the competition was hard for our team. They had to get up at 3:30 in the morning in order to loose some weight (the limit for both was 140 kg) so that they would not exceed the weight limit in these competitions. Poles are already double world champions in this discipline and in the future they are going to try to compete in regular weight.
Szymon Kolecki won a silver medal in weightlifting in the 94 kg category. He had a big chance to win a gold since he totalled 405 kg just like a Greek, gold medal winner. Greek Kakiasvilis had a lower body mass therefore he won. Pole was injured during competition and could not surpass Greek's result.
Szymon Ziolkowski won a gold in hammer throw taking an advantage of the poor performance of the rivals in a bad rainy weather and. It was a nice surprise since he was not a favorite.
On Monday, September 25, a nice surprise was made by our gymnast, Leszek Blanik in vault jump. The last time a Pole won a last medal in gymnastics was in fifties. Blanik was on the last, 8th, qualified place for finals. After his first jump he barely stood on his feet but his second jump was the best from all the jumps in the competition and gave him a third position, a first bronze medal for a Polish team.
For the next two gold medals we had to wait until the Friday, September 29 when Korzeniowski obtained his second gold medal and Polish teenager, 17, Kamila Skolimowska won women's hammer gold. Skolimowska, a daughter of our famous weightlifter in seventies Robert Skolimowski, was already a European junior champion when she was 14. Skolimowska threw 71.16 metres setting new olympic and world junior record. World record holder Mihaela Melinte of Romania missed the competition after a confirmation that she had tested positive for anabolic steroids.
Expectations were high from our kayaking/canoeing sprint teams. We had 9 boats in the finals, some of them world champions, some of them finished their elimination as the first in their class. Unfortunately we ended up only with 3 medals. One bronze on Saturday, September 30, Polish quarter Dariusz Bialkowski, Grzegorz Kotowicz, Adam Seroczynski i Marek Witkowski in 1000 m. One silver and one bronze on Sunday, October 1, the last day of competitions by Daniel Jedraszko i Pawel Baraszkiewicz in men pairs 500 m and Beata Sokolowska i Aneta Pastuszka in women pairs 500 m. A weaker condition of Polish teams on Sunday could be caused by a delay in competitions. Start of all final competitions was postponed twice, first due to the strong wind, second due to the problems with starting gates. It was a danger that these finals will not be finished before the official end of the Olympic Games!
In conclusions, our team did a good job in some track and field competitions as usual, our performance in box, judo and wrestling was very disappointing, in kayaking a bit better. It would be nice if Poles would achieve excellence in one or two sport disciplines - like Americans and Australians in swimming, Cubans in boxing or Hungarians in kayaking rather than having 1-2 medals from different sport disciplines were Poles are good but not the best achievers.
I also recommend a book by Dorling Kindersley Publishing: The Olympic Games: Athens 1896-Sydney 2000
As well as one by Thomas M. Tarapacki, Chasing the American Dream: Polish Americans in Sports