|Hammer Throw||80.47||Bialystok||22 JUL 2017|
|35libs Weight||22.72||Bydgoszcz||31 JAN 2014|
|2013||75.87||Bydgoszcz (Zdzislaw Krzyszkowiak)||08 JUN|
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Updated 5 August 2017
Wojciech NOWICKI Poland (Hammer Throw)
Born: 22 February 1989, Białystok
Coach: Malwina Wojtulewicz
A nice guy, quiet, well-behaved, soft-spoken, a little shy, very committed to his work, sometime a little too much… these are the words that people use when trying to describe Wojciech Nowicki. He shows his inner beast only when he enters the circle with a seven kilo iron ball and chain, known as a hammer. In the season of 2017, this beast helped him cross the magic boundary of 80 metres for the first time. Before this, he had won three medals at major events within the space of a year: bronze at the World Championships in Beijing (2015), bronze at the European Championships in Amsterdam (2016) and bronze at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro (2016). Some might say it was unexpected and came out of nowhere. But Nowicki, with his silent beast, had been waiting patiently for years. Not many people noticed as they were waiting in the shadow of the best hammer thrower of the last seasons, his Polish compatriot, Paweł Fajdek. But now, finally, Nowicki feels that his dreams have come true. If he were to end his career today, and find a job as a robotics engineer, he would be fulfilled and satisfied. But his inner beast has probably already set its eyes on Tokyo or who knows what else.
Hammer throw is a popular event in Poland, the country of two powerful dominators: Anita Włodarczyk and Paweł Fajdek. They have been winning every single competition - with only a few exceptions when it comes to Fajdek - and there is nobody else in the world who can match their results. They’ve been all over the media. No wonder then, that there is little space for another Polish hammer thrower to be recognised. But being in the background has never bothered Nowicki. “I’m quite happy with that. I can walk the streets with my wife in peace. I have somebody to look up to and somebody to chase. For Paweł, it must be more difficult, as he has nobody to battle but himself. I guess that makes it harder to stay motivated,” Nowicki reflects.
Hammer throw was not his first sport. As a boy he thought he’d like to be a soccer player; he trained at a Jagiellonia Białystok club. He found his calling as an 18-year old, or rather, the sport found him.
“During one of the PE classes in high school, a guy came to watch us. His name was Stanisław Gano. We were practicing with a medicine ball and he said that I might be good at the hammer throw, because I am tall, strong and have a wide arm span. He invited me to train with him. “I liked it instantly,” Nowicki recalls. He was able to share his time between training and studies at the University of Technology in his home town of Białystok. His first success was fifth place at the European U23 Championships in Ostrava in 2011. That year his PB was 72.72, 17 metres further than when he started throwing just three years earlier. But things got complicated in 2012, when his coach Bogumił Chlebiński abruptly ended their cooperation.
“He just ruled me out, for no reason in my opinion. Now, when I look back, I think it was for the best. If I had stayed with him, I may have gotten seriously injured or achieved results on the 74 metres level,” Nowicki explains. He may be too shy to admit it, but this was the start of a whole new era. The era of Malwina.
Malwina Wojtulewicz, just four years Nowicki’s senior, started as a fellow thrower and later became his coach. And soon, she became one of the most important women in his life, right next to his wife Anna.
“Wojtek parted ways with his former coach the same year I decided to end my active career and I gave birth to my first son. One day, Wojtek came to my house and asked me to coach him,” Wojtulewicz recalls. As a fellow athlete, she used to give him advice. She told him once that he had all it takes to throw 80 metres, he just needed to improve his technique. “He came to me asking for help, and I helped him. I was clear about my lack of experience as a coach, but I knew what it was like to be an athlete, and promised to gain as much knowledge as possible,” said Wojtulewicz, who subsequently started a course in coaching studies at the University of Physical Education.
“We get along just fine and I trust her entirely. Why shouldn’t I? The results speak for themselves,” Nowicki beams.
“He may address me as Malwa instead of coach Wojtulewicz, but when somebody asks him something, he always says: Everything according to what Malwa says. I like that he shows me respect,” coach Wojtulewicz added.
After five years of cooperation, they can say they have been through a lot. Perhaps the most challenging experience was right at the start. In March 2013, one of the other throwers that Malwina coached unintentionally hit her on the back with the hammer. The accident wasn’t as widely publicised as what happened to Paweł Fajdek’s coach, but the consequences were much more serious. Five broken ribs, punctured lungs and a shattered shoulder blade. One of her ribs stopped just millimetres from her heart.
“I’m happy to be alive, let’s just put it that way. It was a really difficult time for my family. I had to have chest reconstruction, and some parts of my lungs removed; then a second lifesaving surgery as I wasn’t able to breathe and I started to choke,” Wojtulewicz recalls. Her doctors couldn’t believe that within a month of the accident, she was back at the stadium. “At the beginning, standing was too difficult, so they would bring me a chair. I just couldn’t leave my boys alone during the training season,” she admits.
That same season, Nowicki placed fifth at the Universiade in Kazan. But it was two years later, in Beijing, when really big things started. The 2015 World Championships were supposed to be just an opportunity to gain some confidence at international events. He quietly counted on qualifying for the final. If you pushed him really hard, he would admit that he dreamed of a fifth-place finish. He was no less surprised with the bronze than the rest of the world. Especially given that the mark of 78.55 might have allowed him second place. Dilshod Nazarov of Tajikistan took silver with the same result. Paweł Fajdek, with his 80.88, was out of reach for anybody.
During 2016, the Olympic season, Nowicki kept surprising himself. He went to Rio de Janeiro as the bronze medallist from the European Championships in Amsterdam (77.53). With all eyes set on Fajdek, first in expectancy for his dominance, and then in awe after his defeat (Fajdek didn’t qualify for the final); Nowicki stepped up to the challenge and took an Olympic bronze. And in doing so, put himself through inner turmoil.
“I knew it was going to be hard and I just wanted to show what I have in me. Emotion took over me. There was a lot going on, both in the stadium and in my head. I was furious and close to tears. I vaguely remember what was happening. I don’t think I was able to truly contain myself until the last round,” Nowicki recalled.
Coach Wojtulewicz, on the other hand, remembers everything very clearly.
“The final didn’t go our way. His first attempt was a foul. The second one was also announced as a foul too, but the decision was wrong. Wojtek asked the referees to verify it, but it took a very long time. In fact, the referees ruined it for him in a way. The competition was going on but Wojtek was distracted, devastated; he saw himself outside of the last eight. He made it through, but I know he was capable of more than 77.73. And he lost a big opportunity because it’s rare that a result of 78.68 wins you an Olympic gold. In fact, it was only possible that year because of the absence of Paweł Fajdek,” Wojtulewicz explains.
“I was shocked that Paweł didn’t make it to the final. I saw how well-prepared he was during practice in Rio. He was easily throwing around his personal best. But as it happened, everything is possible in sport,” Nowicki speculates.
The success didn’t change much in Nowicki’s life. Outside of hammer throwing, he is just a family guy. He loves to spend time at home; for Nowicki, the best way to relax is going for a walk with his daughter, who is almost three. One day, he plans on finding a job as an engineer and spending more time doing the things he loves. If the medals bring him anything, it is inner peace. “Before, I still had something to prove. I only started practicing the sport late, so I was already behind everybody else. I had a lot to catch up on. Now I feel that I have proven myself and the pressure is nowhere near as tough. I’m much more relaxed now. I’m setting new goals and pursuing them, but I am taking my time,” Nowicki explained.
He has his feet firmly on the ground. “I know my technique is not impressive. And it's a vital part of the sport, so I have a lot to work on,” Nowicki admits. A modest statement, to say the least, for the second-best hammer thrower in the world this season. His 80.47 throw is the tenth best result behind nine marks by Fajdek. Yet he was able to beat Fajdek again. At the Polish championships – which took place in his hometown of Białystok - he took the title for the first time, setting his PB of 80.47, while Fajdek bowed out. But Nowicki wouldn’t be himself if he dwelt on that.
“Paweł is the best, no question about it. He just had a bad day and I used it to my advantage,” Nowicki explains.
He declared that he’s going to take it easy, or easier, in the season following the Olympics. But he goes to the World Championships in London as a favourite. “I’m trying to put the pressure into perspective. I’m going to try to perform around my personal best. If that is enough for the victory, good; if not, well, I’ll get over it. Plus, Rio de Janeiro showed us there is no such thing as favourite,” Nowicki rationalises.
But if there were, Poland could have a very successful World Championships. The beast would take care of that.
Hammer Throw: 80.47 (2017)
2008: 55.71; 2009: 64.22; 2010: 69.59; 2011: 72.72; 2012: 73.52; 2013: 75.87; 2014: 76.14; 2015: 78.71; 2016: 78.36; 2017: 80.47
2011 5th European U23 Championships (Ostrava) 72.20
2013 5th Universiade (Kazan) 75.32
2015 3rd World Championships (Beijing) 78.55
2016 3rd European Championships (Amsterdam) 77.53
2016 3rd Olympic Games (Rio de Janeiro) 77.73
2016 3rd IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge 232.63
Prepared by Marta Mikiel and Rafał Kazimierczak for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2014-2017