The world’s greatest ever race walker, Robert Korzeniowski, walked to his 15th national title on the second day of the Polish Championships in Bydgoszcz, 2 to 4 July 2004.
On target for Olympic gold medal schedule
Korzeniowski who won the 20km in 1:21:40 has been winning national titles in the event every year since 1990, however, after finishing he confirmed this was his last national championship. After the Olympics, he is planning to compete for the last time at the national club championships to gain points for his team, Wawel Cracow.
“I have now been competing for 20 years. My first competition ever took place on 16 June, 1984. During today’s competition I was thinking of two things. After leaving my rivals behind, I kept going at the pace which brought me gold at 50k in Paris. I plan to finish similarly in Athens. And in the last 4 days, I’ve gained additional motivation. This is how old my second daughter, Rozalia, is now.”
Korzeniowski will now travel to the Pyrenees for 28 days of training. Asked about his rivals, he mentioned Andreas Erm of Germany, Nathan Deakes of Australia, the Russians especially Aleksey Voyevodin, as well as the Chinese.
Weather causes generally below par championships
During the 80th edition of the Polish national championships in Bydgoszcz, a lot of attention was given to Korzeniowski, Poland’s brightest medal hope for Athens. Otherwise, the level of results was rather average due to the inclement weather.
Steeplechase – Olympic team run-off
The most interesting event on the first day of the competition in the Zdzislaw Krzyszkowiak stadium (named after the 1960 Olympic steeplechase champion) was the men’s steeplechase final. With four Poles having already achieved the Olympic A standard this year, the top three from this race were to gain Olympic team spots.
The race started late due to the cloudburst over the stadium. The most experienced out of the four contenders, seven-time national champion Rafal Wojcik attempted to dictate the pace, but did not manage to break his rivals, who were faster at the finish. In the end, it was the oldest of the four, 34-year old Jan Zakrzewski who won with 8:28.07, ahead of two former European Junior champions, Jakub Czaja (1999) and Radoslaw Poplawski (2001).
Shot off the mark
The shot put champions did not manage to achieve the Olympic A standards. Krystyna Zabawska, world indoor silver medallist from Maebashi equalled her season’s best (18.42) and became national champion for the 13th time. Tomasz Majewski, who placed fourth in this year’s World Indoor Championships, was just 9 centimetres away from the 20.30 mark. He was more lucky a few days earlier, as on 29 June the car in which he, along with his coach Henryk Olszewski and a team doctor were returning from the Prague Grand Prix meet had crashed off the road. Majewski was unhurt, while the coach and the doctor sustained broken vertebrae.
Both Olympic Hammer champions win
The reigning Olympic hammer throw champion Kamila Skolimowska, now coached by the Belorussian Pyotr Zaytsev, is starting to feel more certain in the hammer circle. Kamila stressed the fact she liked to compete in Bydgoszcz, at the stadium which has seen her victories in the World Youth Championships and the European U23. Sure enough, she won with a season’s best of 71.51.
The other Olympic champion from Sydney, Szymon Ziolkowski also won, albeit with a weak throw of 73.63, retiring from the competition after three throws. His job was made easier as last year’s 80+ metre throwers, Wojciech Kondratowicz and Maciej Palyszko both fouled out on their first three attempts.
The men’s 100 metre final was won in style by this year’s European Cup winner Lukasz Chyla. His colleagues from the 4x100 relay team, Marcin Urbas and Marcin Jedrusinski, placed first and second in the 200 metres, although with relatively slow times – only Urbas managed to break the 21-second barrier (20.99). The Polish 4x100 team for Athens will also feature Michal Bielczyk, a son of two world-class athletes from the past. His mother Zofia was the world indoor record holder at 60 metre Hurdles, while his father, Piotr, placed fourth in Javelin in the Montreal Olympic Games.
The men’s 400m final finished with a surprise. The best Polish specialist of recent years, Robert Mackowiak could only finish sixth despite entering the home straight in third place. Another long-time relay team member Piotr Rysiukiewicz did not compete due to illness. The viewers were disappointed with the level of the event, as not even the surprise winner Marcin Marciniszyn managed to break 46.5 seconds.
The 1998 European champion Pawel Januszewski managed to win the national title at 400 metre hurdles, but not break 50 seconds. The 2002 European indoor champion Pawel Czapiewski who has only just managed to get back to health before the national championships finished third.
Pyrek and Rogowska battle again
The women’s Pole Vault contest was again marred by the rain, which caused an hour-long pause in the competition. Both Monika Pyrek and Anna Rogowska cleared 4.45, but they had to put off the thoughts of 4.60 vaults for another day.
Grzegorz Sposob, the one-time world season leader in high jump, this time watched the competition from the stands. A light foot injury from the Vaxjo meet has not fully healed yet. In Sposob’s absence, the favourite was Aleksander Walerianczyk, world’s highest jumper of last year (2.36), who was yet to achieve the Olympic A standard of 2.30 this season.
Yet as it happened, it was the 21-year old Robert Wolski who sprang a surprise by breaking his PB by 5 centimetres to clear 2.30, while Walerianczyk could not get beyond 2.25. Wolski is coached by Edward Hatala, the same man who took Artur Partyka to countless major championship medals.
After the competition, Grzegorz Sposob expressed his satisfaction in the fact that he will not be the only Pole competing in high jump in Athens. “What I am most afraid of is the qualifying, as it will be very tense. It is much easier to jump in the final, there is not this kind of pressure. In my opinion, every one of the top 10, or even 15 of the world lists could win in Athens.” In a few days, Sposob is travelling to Sweden for another confrontation with Stefan Holm.
The women’s 1500 metre race was an unusual one. For the majority of the distance, the race was led by Joanna Kaczor, who at one time was as much as 30 metres ahead of her rivals. Kaczor was caught only at the last bend, as the chase was led by Anna Jakubczak, who recently finished only seventh in the European Superleague. On this occasion, though, Jakubczak would not be caught, and she held off both Wioletta Janowska and Lidia Chojecka, whose third place was one of the surprises of the championships. The dejected Kaczor walked off the track 70 metres from the finish line.
In his first Polish national championships, Yared Shegumo could not manage to win the 5000m final. The naturalised Ethiopian, who broke Bronislaw Malinowski’s 30-year old national 3000 metre record this winter, ended up with the bronze medal. Yared has been living in Poland since 1999, following on from the World Youth Champs, which took place in Bydgoszcz that year.
Poland’s best sprint hurdlers showed good form, winning decisively. Aurelia Trywianska broke 13 seconds despite a slight injury. Tomasz Scigaczewski could have run much faster than his 13.63 had it not been for his hitting the final hurdle hard and slowing down in the final metres.
The only national record set was the fastest ever women’s 4x400 by a club relay (3:31.51).
Two juniors showed great form: Sandra Chukwu won the long jump silver medal with 6.33, while Kamila Stepaniuk finished second in high jump with 1.84. Unfortunately, these results were achieved too late to add them to the World Junior Championship team.
Janusz Rozum for the IAAF
Full results are available at: http://www.pzla.pl/2004/MPS