Poles bring home 11 medals from Rio

By Robert Strybel, Polish/Polonian Affairs Writer

For 16 days, Poland’s most avid sports fans went about groggy and bleary-eyed from watching live Olympic coverage that began each day around midnight due to the time difference. Others settled for rebroadcasts and wrap-ups later in the day. Despite periodic outbursts of Polish national pride, when it was all over, some felt unfulfilled.

Things got off to a good start when Polish cyclist Rafał Majka won a medal, bronze, on the first day of the Olympics. The first Olympic gold was captured by rowers, Magdalena Fularczyk and Natalia Madaj, in women’s double sculls. Earlier, Maria Springwald, Joanna Leszczyńska, Monika Ciaciuch and Agnieszka Kobus captured bronze in the women’s quadruple sculls, and canoeist Marta Walczykiewicz added a silver medal to the collection.

But the unquestioned heroine of the Rio games was hammer-thrower Anita Włodarczyk, referred to by the Polish media as “Golden Anita.” She not only won the gold medal when she hurled her hammer an amazing 82.29 meters, but also broke her own world record by 1.21 meters. In addition, the two-time world champion and three-time European champion became the first woman in Olympic history to outdo the men’s hammer-throw champion – in Rio an athlete from Tajikistan who threw 78.68 meters.

One of the event’s biggest disappointments was Polish men’s hammer-thrower, two-time world champion Paweł Fajdek, who not only was sure of a gold medal but planned to break the 86.74 meter record set by a Russian in 1986. But, it turned out that Fajdek didn’t even make it through the elimination phase. The honor of Poland’s male hammer-throwers was defended by Wojciech Nowicki who won a bronze medal in the sport.

Oktawia Nowacka, a career soldier in the Polish Army, brought home the bronze in modern pentathlon, a sport combining fencing, free-style swimming, show jumping, pistol shooting and a 3,200-meter cross-country run. A bronze medal was also won by woman wrestler Monika Michalik.

Discus thrower Piotr Małachowski had his heart set on Olympic gold, but had to settle for silver. His claim to fame, however, transcended the strictly athletic realm, when he decided to auction off his medal to help a little Polish boy. Three-year-old Olek (Aleksander) Szymański has a rare eye cancer and stands to lose one of his eyes. The only hope for saving it is at a New York eye clinic where the necessary surgical procedure costs $264,000. Małachowski got the ball rolling, and others have been pitching in.

This year’s Polish Olympic team was not without its whiff of scandal. Brother weightlifters, Tomasz and Adrian Zieliński, were disqualified and sent home on doping charges. They hotly denied consciously ingesting any illegal substance, but the tests conducted by the anti-doping lab proved otherwise.

As the Rio Olympics were winding down, it appeared Poland might not end up with the 17 medals predicted by optimists, but with the same ten the country had won at the previous three 21st-century games: Athens (2004), Beijing (2008) and London (2012). The balance was tipped by mountain biker Maja Włoszczowska who came in second over a grueling, curvy, hilly, obstacle-strewn course. A major disappointment was the Poles’ failure to win bronze in the handball finals where they lost to the Germans.

All told, Polish Olympians brought home 11 medals from Rio de Janeiro: two gold, three silver and six bronze. Of the participating 206 National Olympic Committees, in the final medal tally, Poland came 33rd. Although the Poles’ performance wasn’t quite as spectacular as expected, for what it’s worth, it cannot be denied these were Poland’s best Olympic games of the 21st century!

PFA Youth Blog: National Zlot (2)

My first and last Zlot as a youth Member
Written by Michele Zajkowski, PFA Future Leader (Nest 36, Southwestern Conn.)

The 2014 Zlot was my first and last Zlot as a youth Member and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome, from all of the activities, to team challenges, to the card games, and to the cardboard food at the dining hall. The week I was there was so fun-filled it flew by to where I wish we had a couple more days. Saying goodbye is the hardest thing to do when leaving. That is why we say, “See you soon.” At the end of the week and on the ride home, I realized how much Falcons has impacted my life. Falcons is my escape from reality. I get to run away from all the stress at work to a week of fun. Zlot also opened my eyes that my friends at home may never be by my side throughout my life, but my Falcons will always be there. That’s why I say Falcons are family. You never lose them.

PFA Youth Blog: National Zlot (1)

My First Zlot!
Written by Dakota Williams, PFA Future Leader (Nest 36, Southwestern Conn.)

This was my first Zlot attending and I was so excited. My grandmother, Trish, took me and my younger sister, and she had already planned everything out. We showed up the day before the Zlot started and helped out as much as we could.

The next day came and everyone showed up. I saw a lot of old friends from past years at camp which was great! Later on that week, the Track and Field events started and I ran the 800 meters. Running is NOT one of my skills. We started and the other kids ran by me like it was nothing. I was behind and tired; I wanted to give up and just walk off the track and not finish the last 200 meters, but I did not let that stop me. Everyone was cheering me on, really like everyone was. I was not going to let them down, so I finished with a smile and said great job to the other kids who ran. The next day, I ran the 100 meter relay with my Nest (36). The race started and I waited as I was the third senior. My turn came and I took off like a bullet going around everyone. We won. I was so glad that I could help the team out.

The next two days were volleyball. The first day, we played for fun and practice. The next day was serious. The games started. The looks on the faces were not friendly. My team won game after game, only losing to Nest 36. Then the championship game came and we had to play them once more. we took a tough lost first game but came back to beat them by 10 points the second game, which sent it into a tie breaker. Sadly we lost, but it was fun and was worth every painful injury. The last night we had the dance. It was a sure splendid time. Everyone danced into the night until it was time to go back to the dorms.

For my first Zlot, I had a blast and I can’t wait to see everyone else again.

District II Youth Skillz Day

On Saturday, April 12, District II will hold a “Youth Skillz Day” from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at St. Mary Social Center, 5000 West 31st St. Cicero, IL 60804. Skillz Day is a fun day for any District II youth Member to participate in athletic events and meet other youth Members. It is also a preparation day and workshop for the 2014 National Zlot. Cost is $5 per participant and includes lunch. Ages 7 and older are welcome to attend. Please RSVP by April 4 to George Wortz at 414-313-9579 or Donna Skonning at 708-650-4345.

Click here for additional information.