30 APR 2004 General News

Korzeniowski has eyes set on Naumburg 20km success

Robert Korzeniowski of Poland at the IAAF Press Conference in Naumburg (IAAF)Robert Korzeniowski of Poland at the IAAF Press Conference in Naumburg (IAAF) © Copyright

The man who held centre stage at the opening press conference, the three time Olympic gold medallist Robert Korweniowzski made it clear he still had plenty of motivation left for the shorter race distance of 20 km here at Naumburg.

Taking full advantage of his positions as the star name in the event of race walking, he also announced that his focus remains on retaining just his 50km title in Athens and, after that, representing the well-being of his fellow athletes.

The three time Olympic Gold medallist, who is a national hero in Poland, declared his intention, after attempting to defend his 50km walk title at Athens, to stand for election as the IOC athletes' representative after he retires.

"Athens will be my fourth and final Games which is the fulfilment of my competitive dreams. I want to move on to the next stage which is working within the Olympic movement to help future athletes achieve their dreams."

Despite the abundance of Olympic and European titles Robert still has something of a gap in his collection of medals - he's yet to win a medal at World Cups.

"I came fourth twice in 1993 in Monterrey, Mexico and in 1999 in Mézidon in France so I want to have a good race. But I greatly admire my competitors such as Jefferson Pérez and 20km is very tough for me."

"You know my 20km win at Sydney was a bigger achievement for me than winning the 50km", said the 36 year old Pole. “The shorter distance is a big challenge, but I'm here to race and I want to shock the opposition, that's all I can do."

Robert may or may not have the pace to beat Jefferson and some of the fast young Russian walkers on Sunday, but part of the secret of his success is being aware of his limitations.

When asked if he'd consider changing his mind about doing just the 50km at the Olympics to defend his double success at the previous games he was sure his cautious approach was the right one.

"As well as for my competitors, I have respect for the Greek climate. When I won the IAAF World Championship 50km in Athens 7 years ago the temperature got up to 44C. Because of the likely conditions I know I won't be able to recover and be able to focus 100% on the 50km."

Sitting on the same stage as IAAF President Lamine Diack and some of his rivals, Robert spelt out his plans for after the Athens Olympics.

"I coach my sister Sylwia and advise some French athletes but I want to devote myself to Polish sport after I retire. I also currently represent athletes as the European representative and want to do a lot to increase the educational opportunities for all athletes on behalf of the International Olympic Committee."

According to Robert, whose professional background is in education, "My reason for standing for election is simple - I have 20 years experience at the top level of athletics and I'd like to be able to share my experiences as an athlete and Olympian. I want to apply myself to public work and I feel there is a shortage of younger people in these positions. Also, I would like to be able to follow the example of Sergey Bubka who is one of my heroes."

Judging by the reception he received from athletes and fans at mixed events such as the Irish Indoor championship in Belfast earlier this year, Robert's achievements, and his charm, make people view him as a natural leader.

"Athletes are the main actors on the Olympic stage, although we express ourselves without words. I think I can make the voice of my fellow athletes, across all events, be heard."

Robert is the ultimate competitor, but also a master of the possible. He therefore seems confident in facing the heat in Athens, and beyond.

Tim Watt for the IAAF