|High Jump||1.99||Beijing (National Stadium)||29 AUG 2015|
|High Jump||1.99||Opole||09 JUN 2013|
|High Jump||2.02||Torun||21 FEB 2015|
|2015||1.99||Beijing (National Stadium)||29 AUG|
|2010||1.89||Ostrava (Mestský Stadion)||27 MAY|
|2009||1.93||Bydgoszcz (Zdzislaw Krzyszkowiak)||01 AUG|
|2006||1.84||Biala Podlaska||27 MAY|
|2005||1.86||Biala Podlaska||24 JUN|
|2004||1.84||Bydgoszcz (Zdzislaw Krzyszkowiak)||02 JUL|
|2016||1.97||Lodz (Atlas Arena)||05 FEB|
|2014||2.00||Sopot (Ergo Arena)||08 MAR|
|2014||2.00||Sopot (Ergo Arena)||22 FEB|
|2014||2.00||Arnstadt (Sporthalle)||08 FEB|
|2010||1.92||Banská Bystrica||04 MAR|
|2009||1.92||Torino (Oval Lingotto)||08 MAR|
|IAAF World Indoor Championships||3||1.96||Portland (Oregon Convention Center), OR||20 MAR 2016|
|15th IAAF World Championships||4||1.99||Beijing (National Stadium)||29 AUG 2015|
|IAAF World Indoor Championships 2014||1||2.00||Sopot (Ergo Arena)||08 MAR 2014|
|14th IAAF World Championships||7||1.93||Moskva (Luzhniki)||17 AUG 2013|
|12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics||9q2||1.92||Berlin (Olympiastadion)||18 AUG 2009|
Focus on Athletes biographies are produced by the IAAF Communications Dept, and not by the IAAF Statistics and Documentation Division. If you have any enquiries concerning the information, please use the Contact IAAF page, selecting ‘Focus on Athletes Biographies’ in the drop down menu of contact area options.
Updated 16 March 2016
Kamila LIĆWINKO (née STEPANIUK) Poland (High Jump)
Born: 22 March 1986, Bielsk Podlaski
Coach: Michał Lićwinko
With Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games approaching Kamila Lićwinko is facing the most important season of her career. It’s like she debuted on the big scene without too many trials or rehearsals but instantly as a star. If she wants to keep the status there’s no space for mistake.
One of the first great moments in her career came just two years ago. Jumping in the splendid venue of Ergo Arena in Sopot filled to capacity with ecstatic Polish spectators, Kamila cleared the bar set at 2 metres. The world class achievement, the second result on the 2014 top list, brought her no more than a title of Polish champion. But at the same time so much more.
It brought her confirmation of her newly established status of a high jump star – she had cleared 2 metres for the first time only two weeks earlier. It brought her promise – as the national championships was just a prelude to the more remarkable event to be held in this very spot – the World Indoors Sopot 2014. And finally it brought her the pleasure of being admired in her own country. A multiple national champion, Kamila for the first time was able to enjoy her title together with the sports fans as the event was set in an unusual scene.
“So far we competed in the training centre of Spała, which isn’t a very spectacular venue, deep in the forest with very few spectators. At the end of the event, when they decorated us with medals, the only ones to applaud were janitors and cleaners,” Kamila joked. “Here in Sopot the ambiance was unbelievable. And the results speak for themselves. I’m so happy and excited with what I achieved that I’m not able to even think of where it can lead me in the World Indoors,” she admitted.
It may be hard to imagine, but just around 20 months earlier Kamila Lićwinko, a 26 year old underachiever at the time, very seriously considered retirement. It was as if right before her career went rocketing up it came to a complete standstill. But let’s start from the beginning.
As is often the case with high jumpers, you need to be a natural. And Kamila – very tall and slim – was born to fly over the bar flop style. “I loved it right away. The first success came on my very first competition. I won with the girls way above my age group of 10 - 12 years. I was better than 15 year olds,” Kamila recalls.
Her parents saw the potential and signed her in to train with Eugeniusz Bedeniczuk, the former triple jumper, the Olympic finalist from Barcelona 1992 who led the group in Kamila’s native town Bielsk Podlaski. Kamila attended practice three times a week but as committed an athlete as she was, two other days of the week she trained for volleyball. It took her three years to make her choice.
“Finally, my love of high jump prevailed and I staked my future on it. I went to an athletic high school specialising in track and field,” Kamila recalls. This decision required her to move to the bigger city of Białystok by herself at the age of 15. The promising young athlete took it quite well but her career didn’t blossom as beautifully as one might have expected.
Her first appearance on the big scene brought her seventh place in the European Junior Championships in 2005. Two years later, she finished right outside the podium at the European Under 23 Championships. In 2009 she was fourth at the Universiade, and eighth at the European Indoors. That year she set a personal best of 1.93, a result she had problems repeating for many years to come.
“I trained hard and I kept improving, but there were so many tough moments. I had to face so many disappointments and frustrations. I have been disregarded many times. I had developed a fear of jumping and important people decided I’m not a long term prospect. They blamed me that my results weren’t stable enough. I had my high and lows, although the latter might have been more numerous for quite a while. And health wasn’t always my good friend,” Kamila admits.
The worst period in her career came at the end of 2010. She just tried to make her peace with the memories of a very unsuccessful season – for no reason she had no major results to speak of – when she broke a bone in her foot during practice. Though any injury is an unlucky event, this one was special as the doctors couldn’t diagnose it properly. They applied the right treatment not earlier than in August the following year, when the whole 2011 outdoor season was over. When the foot finally healed, Kamila’s knee started bothering her. So in 2012, when all the athletes prepared for the London Olympics, Kamila’s centre of attention was her injured knee.
“I tried very hard to keep my spirits high, but around that time I started to have doubts. I had to be honest with myself and answer the question, how long I’d be able to continue. I made my living as an athlete and without results there was no scholarship, no starting fees,” Kamila said. While she was still hesitating about her future, in the end of 2011 she got a job as a saleswoman in a drugstore. “It was supposed to be just temporarily, for the busy Christmas period, but I stayed for over half a year,” Lićwinko recalls.
During all her years as an athlete, she always tried to have a plan B ready. Right after high school she went to college and studied land management and then during her injury break started other studies – physical education. She got a master degree in both subjects. “I’m well aware that a sports career doesn’t last forever but I didn’t want it to end just yet. Even in the worst of times, deep down in me I still had faith. My love for high jump prevailed again and I decided to give it one last chance. I saw it as a last moment to either make progress or quit,” Kamila said.
But it was clear she needed changes. And changes came. Among them a massive one – a new coach, after 10 long years. Ever since her move to Białystok high school, Kamila had trained with coach Janusz Kuczyński, who approached the age of 80 in their last year together.
“I owe him a lot, not only in my career but in private life as well. I became who I am as an athlete thanks to his guidance and I’ll always remember that. But it became clear to me I need a fresh start, I need somebody to see me from a totally different angle. Now I train more and I train harder, longer, different. Frankly all we do now in terms of practice and motivation is what opened a new chapter in my jumping,” she explains.
A new coach didn’t mean a new figure in Kamila’s life. The person she decided to form her team with happen to be her fiancée, and since September 2013 also her husband, Michał Lićwinko. One year Kamila’s junior, he used to be an athlete himself, a shot putter, before an injury brought his career to a halt.
He convinced her to quit the drugstore job. In June 2012 Kamila officially appointed him as a coach. “We worked very well as a team but the decision wasn’t easy as there were very few people who saw any promise in our cooperation. But we just tried to do our job and don’t listen to what people say,” Kamila admits.
And whoever may have had doubts, Kamila and Michał proved them wrong very soon. After just one year together, in June 2013 Kamila jumped 1.99m, beating the Polish national record of Danuta Bułkowska (1.97) that had lasted for a whopping 29 years! Just one month later, she won the Universiade in Kazan and made it to the final of the World Championships in Moscow.
And she couldn’t possibly dream of a better indoor season 2014. In January, in Cottbus, she jumped 1.96 and beat the indoor Polish record which had stood for 30 years. Then, on 8 February, another meet in Germany, Arnstadt, saw her breaking the 2-metre barrier. She repeated that result in Sopot two weeks later. And then again in the same venue in March to take the crown of Indoor World Champion (joint with Maria Kuchina). Just like that her dreams became reality.
“I remember watching Blanka Vlasic winning all the competitions and always winning them with results above 2 metres. I dreamed to one day be able to compete on such a high level. And this is what I’m beginning to be a part of. I can compete with the best as I always wanted,” Kamila says.
The bar set at two metres, which had brought her greatest success, stayed elusive in the outdoor competitions. The European Championships, in Zürich, turned out disappointing, with 9th position and a 1.90 result. “I think I wanted too much. I competed too often in the first part of the season, 6 times within 3 weeks. I started to feel it, my foot was overloaded and painful. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. My self-confidence was gone and all the hard work didn’t pay out,” Kamila explains.
She decided to deeply redefine her calendar according to the rule “less is more”. The results came quickly – another happy winter for the reborn high jumper. In the span of three weeks, she beat her own Polish record twice, first in Moscow (2.01) then in Toruń (2.02). Then she took her second medal of a major international competition – the bronze at the European Indoor Championships 2015, in Prague (1.94). The outdoor season wasn’t splendid so far, but very consistent. Out of eight events, Lićwinko jumped 1.97 four times and added a best result – 1.98 – scored in the last start before an intensive period of training camps.
Her coach and husband was convinced Kamila was on the rise. “She sets records not only in competitions and not only in high jump. In the last five training sessions she set five personal bests in different tests, 20 and 30 metre runs, decathlon shot throw, power clean, etc. She is a workhorse. None of the jumpers I know would stand the workload she takes on,” he said 2 months before 2015 World Championships in Beijing. Kamila was very open about it that she went there for the medals. But in spite of equalling her own national outdoor record of 1.99 she wasn’t able to jump onto the podium and had to settle on the fourth place.
Kamila’s goals for the winter 2016 couldn’t be any different than to defend her World Indoor titles from Sopot. “That was the success that came unexpectedly, but I’m more mature now and ready for big results,” she stated. The joint winner from Sopot, Russian’s Maria Kuchina isn’t scheduled to jump in Portland, but Lićwinko doesn’t expect the competition to be any easier because of that. With a season’s best of 197, she stands in equal fourth place on the world top list behind four jumpers who have recorded better or equal results. The best of them and the most unexpected is 18 year old Vashti Cunningham who assured her position just days ago jumping 1.99. And most remarkably she did that in Portland while taking the US Indoor Championships title. It’s as if she follows Kamila’s path.
But the Polish jumper is sure every competition has its own drama to unfold as she arrives to Portland with high hopes.
“I’m healthy and in shape. Several days ago I tried to beat my indoor record and clear 2.03. I failed but my coach is positive I have it in my legs. I will do all it takes to keep my title in Portland. No matter how the competition goes I will be happy with a medal of any colour,” Kamila assures.
There’s also no secret she looks further than that, with her eyes set on Rio de Janeiro. “Before last season I wondered if I would be persistent enough to continue till 2016 Olympics. Back then, it seemed unattainable even to qualify for Rio, with the required result of 1.95. Now it doesn’t look that hard anymore. I feel it is within my reach. I will have my Olympic debut as a 30-year old and who knows if I will continue till 2020,” says Kamila who didn’t qualify for the Beijing Olympics and had to skip London due to injury. A successful Olympic debut would be great way to crown her career, but not to conclude it.
“I look up at Ruth Beitia, whose big career really started after 30, and believe I can stay on a high level just as long. I feel I have the late bloomer in me,” Lićwinko assures.
High Jump: 1.99 (2013) NR / 2.02i (2015) NR
2004: 1.84; 2005: 1.86; 2006: 1.84/1.85i; 2007: 1.90; 2008: 1.91; 2009: 1.93; 2010: 1.89/1.92i; 2011: -/1.88i; 2012: 1.89; 2013: 1.99 NR; 2014: 1.97/2.00i NR; 2015: 1.99/2.02i NR; 2016: 197i
2005 7th European Junior Championships (Kaunas) 1.82
2007 4th European U23 Championships (Debrecen) 1.86
2009 8th European Indoor Championships (Torino) 1.92
2009 9th European Team Championships (Leiria) 1.87
2009 4th Universiade (Belgrade) 1.88
2009 16thq World Championships (Berlin) 1.92
2013 17thq European Indoor Championships (Göteborg) 1.85
2013 2nd European Team Championships (Gateshead) 1.92
2013 1st Universiade (Kazan) 1.96
2013 7th World Championships (Moscow) 1.93
2014 1st World Indoor Championships (Sopot) 2.00
2014 9th European Championships (Zürich) 1.90
2015 3rd European Indoor Championships (Prague) 1.94
2015 3rd European Team Championships (Cheboksary) 1.97
2015 4th World Championships (Beijing) 1.99
Prepared by Marta Mikiel for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2014-2016