21 APR 2004 General News

Korzeniowski looks to the future, while seeking elusive gold in Naumburg

Robert Korzeniowski of Poland wins the 50km walk (Getty Images)Robert Korzeniowski of Poland wins the 50km walk (Getty Images) © Copyright

A casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that Robert Korzeniowski - who will particpate at 20km in the IAAF World Race Walking Cup in Naumburg ( 1 - 2 May) - is planning on enjoying a more relaxed final Olympic appearance this summer than the previous three editions in which he has competed.

Since his Olympic debut at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, the iron man from Krakow in Poland, has taken on one of the most difficult and demanding challenges on the entire Olympic programme, by doubling up over both the 20km and 50km distances at three successive Games, culminating in an unprecedented double victory in the hot Sydney sun 4 years ago.

In so doing, not only did he become the first walker in history to strike gold twice at the same Games, the 35 year old also became the first man to successfully defend his Olympic 50km crown!

Since Sydney, however, the Pole has concentrated solely on picking up 50km crowns, something he has done with devastating effect, winning the 2001 & 2003 World title's in Edmonton and Paris respectively, and the 2002 European crown in Munich, setting World bests - since 1 Jan 2004 official World record (3:36:03) - in the latter two competitions.

I'm not a machine

"I am only a man not a machine" he replies to the question of why he is not doubling again in Athens. "The heat and humidity in Athens will not be conducive to fast times or successful doubling up over the two distances" he adds with the beneficial experience of having already won a World title in the sweltering heat of Athens in 1997.

Learning from the past greats

"When I was serving my apprenticeship on the World stage there was not many other World class walkers in Poland and I learned a lot from people like Maurizio Damilano (1980 Olympic 20km Walk Champion) and Josef Priblinec (1988 Olympic 20km Walk Champion)."

"Now that I am retiring I am very conscious of the need for me to have world-class successors in Poland so at the moment I am coaching Benjamin Kucinski (European U-23 Champion) as well as my sister Sylvia who qualified for the 20km a few weeks ago in Podebrady."

Looking for IOC role

"On top of this I am also running for the IOC athletes commission in Athens so I certainly wont be getting bored before or after my race!" he adds with a smile!

Fluent in five languages, he is already a member of the Athletes Commission of the European Olympic Committee (EOC) as well as recently being appointed the Polish Ambassador to the European Union for the European Year of Education through Sport.

"I have a number of ideas and proposals I would like to put in place," he says quite frankly. "Throughout my 20 years of competing at a world class level, I have seen first hand the issues facing elite athletes, such as combining studies with training during their career, and then when their careers are over the struggle to get their experiences in sport accounted for when looking for a job"

"I have been working for some time on "An Olympic Charter of Education" which will work closely with Education Leaders across the world and make them aware of the needs of Olympic athletes so that flexibility, understanding and adaptability will become commonplace for Olympians across the world throughout their studies."

Looking for elusive World Cup gold

While competing at the highest level over the past 15 years Korzeniowski has promoted a European Grand Prix event in Krakow as well as owning his own line of sports gear called unsurprisingly "Walker by RK".

Naumburg will also be his final IAAF World Cup appearance, an event he has yet to strike gold, a fact he is very keen to rectify over 20km.

With his past record, who can doubt him!