Poland has had a team competing in the Olympics since 1924. In that time, Polish athletes have won a total of 304 medals (74 gold, 90 silver and 140 bronze; 284 Summer Olympic medals and 20 Winter Olympic medals). Poland is in the top twenty countries in the world for medal tally and it is the third most successful country (after Hungary and Romania) of those nations that have never hosted the Olympics. Poland has been most successful in football and volleyball, winning gold medals in both. Weightlifting also features strongly with Poland having won 34 medals, including six golds. Here are 7 of Poland’s unsung Olympic heroes that may not be so well-known outside Poland.
Manchester City and Legia Warsaw will never forget ‘Kaka’, ‘Kazik’ or ‘Legendeyna’. Kazimierz Deyna is one of the best footballers that came from Poland. He was a key part of Poland’s World Cup success in the 1970s, when they finished third in 1974 (and actually had a better record than the West Germany winners and the Netherlands runners up). In 1978, they lost to Argentina, who eventual won.
It was in the Olympics where Kazimierz Deyna really took main stage, not only leading Poland to the gold medal in 1972 and the silver medal in 1976, but playing the best football game in the competition. In 1972, Deyna fired in nine goals and was the top scorer in the tournament. This included both goals in the final, when Poland came back from 1-0 down to beat Hungary 2-1 and clinch the goal medal. Two statues are dedicated to him in Poland – one at the Legia Warszawa stadium, and the other at the Starogard Gdański stadium.
Justyna Kowalczyk is a Polish cross country skier from Limanowa, who has won two gold medals, one silver medal and two bronze medals since her Olympic debut in 2000. Kowalczyk is also a double-time world champion. She is the only skier to have won the Tour de Ski four times consecutively. She is also one of only two female skiers to win the FIS Cross-Country World Cup three times in a row. Justyna holds the all-time record for the most wins in the Tour de Ski with 14 competitions won and 29 total podiums.
Robert Korzeniowski is a four time gold medal winner at the Summer Olympics competing in Athletics, mostly long distance walking. Korzeniowski has also won three gold medals at world championships and hails from Lubaczów. He comes from a sporting family, as his sister Sylwia Korzeniowska is also a professional athlete.
Korzeniowski won his world championship medals in 1997, 2001, and 2003, but his biggest achievement and claim to fame was becoming the first athlete to win both the long distance and the short distance medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. His other two Olympic golds came in 1996 (Atlanta) and 2004 (Athens). After retiring, Korzeniowski continued to work in the sporting profession, taking on roles within the International Olympic Committee.
Irena Szewińska was actually born in Russia (St Petersburg), but is known for being one of the world’s best female athletes for nearly two decades, in multiple events. She represented Poland and her medal count is vast. She won three Olympic gold medals, two silver and two bronze. In her lengthy and decorated career, Szewińska also broke six world records and is the only athlete (male or female) to have held a world record in the 100 meter, 200 meter and 400 meter events. Aside from her Olympic triumphs, she won medals all over the world, including ten medals in European Championships and many more in Poland and Russia. Szewińska became the head of the Polish Federation of Athletics in 2004.
Put simply, Jerzy Pawłowski is a fencing hero not just recognized in Poland, but globally. Pawłowski broke the Hungarian winning streak with the Olympic Sabre gold medal at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. He was serving as a major in the Polish Army when he won the gold, becoming the first non-Hungarian in 48 years to win. Pawłowski’s medal spree stretched much further than this however, as he was present at six different Olympic games between 1952 and 1972. During this time, he won three silver medals and a bronze. In 1967 the International Fencing Federation named Pawłowski as the best fencer of all time. He died in January 2005 in his home city of Warsaw at the age of 72.
Włodzimierz ‘Włodek’ Lubański is the second footballer on the list, and he was not just an Olympic gold medal winner, but Poland’s all-time top goalscorer until recent hero, Robert Lewandowski, took that honour. Back in the 60s, 70s and 80s, Lubański netted 48 goals in 75 caps. His finest hour came at the 1972 Olympics, when he helped Poland win the gold medal. Lubański continued to be involved in football after his retirement, including filling a role as vice-chairman at Polonia Warszawa, one of only 16 teams to have won the Polish League title. Lubański has a star dedicated to him in the town of Władysławowo.
A ‘new kid on the block’, Oktawia Nowacka won an Olympic bronze medal in the Modern Pentathlon in the Rio 2016 games. Nowacka is one of the trendiest Polish medal winners and is highly active on social media sharing of her lifestyle with the world on her blog. She loves to travel, hike, eat healthy and keep fit, and you can follow her Instagram feed as she prepares for more tournaments.
#goldmedalist #cism #militarysport #militarygame #korea #athlete #modernpentathlon #sport #roadtorio #rio2016 #happy #vegan #veganworkout fot. @krzysztofkuruc_photo
A post shared by Oktawia Nowacka (@oktawianowacka) on Mar 2, 2016 at 8:32am PST
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.