Piotr Malachowski in Rome (Giancarlo Colombo) © Copyright
General News

Mixing success with injury par for the course for Malachowski

Two items stand out for Polish Discus thrower Piotr Malachowski from 2010: capturing the European title and winning the season-long battle by taking the inaugural Samsung Diamond race trophy in the event. Looking back, the Polish strong man regrets not having thrown beyond 70 metres and not winning the season-capping IAAF / VTB Bank Continental Cup, but all things considered, it was a solid campaign for the 27-year-old from Wroclav who reached the crème of his event when he took Olympic silver two years ago in Beijing.

Podium finishes within a cycle of injury

In discussing his season, Malachowski often returns to his situation from 2009. He captured the silver medal at the World Championships in Berlin that year, even though an injury to his index finger left his appearance in the German capital in doubt until the very last moment. He underwent surgery shortly after his last competition that season but rehabilitation progressed slowly. He returned to full training in February 2010 and by May, in his first meet of the season, threw nearly 69 metres. Now, he’s found himself in a similar situation.

“Since January (of 2010) I had been hindered by a hernia, it really hurt me,” Malachowski said. “But I clenched teeth, because my goal was a medal at the European Championships. At the end of the summer season I didn’t really train. I carried out only some jogging and light fitness, but not professional training. The pain was too strong.”

Another surgery followed in September, this time for the hernia, performed by Dr. Robert Smigielski at Warsaw’s Carolina Medical Center. It ended with 60 stitches on his belly.

By early last month, under the supervision of his physio Andrzej Krawczyk, a Discus finalist at the 2005 World Championships, Malachowski could only manage a few exercises – one’s he describes only as “funny”. He nonetheless left for a warm weather training stint in South Africa shortly after the New Year, and returned last week. Next up is a three-week camp in Monte Gordo in Portugal.

“My training was still really little more than fun because the whole time I had to watch out for my belly,” Malachowski said of his stay in South Africa. “I went to the gym and did exercises on the Atlas training equipment, in addition to the bench press and squats, although they are almost crucial for me. The most important was that I can gently throw. But I’m very pleased that it didn’t cause me any pain.”

His recent training in Africa was devoted primarily to strengthening his abdominal muscles. After his first few throws, Malachowski was surprised that the discus flew as far as it did, considering he wasn’t using a full rotation. According to his coach, Witold Suski, his training had gone well. So far, so good.

Making the most of down time

Following his surgery, Malachowski made the most of his free time, and certainly wasn’t bored. Freed from his traditional fall training routine, he received numerous interview requests and invitations to many areas around Poland, which he graciously accepted. After taking gold in Barcelona, he was also promoted to corporal in the Polish Army and received his cash prize directly from the hands of the Minister of Defense.

“I felt very honoured,” he said, “because usually the minister is not involved in corporals’ promotion.”

The title of European champion also brought with it other honours. At the Laurel Queen of Sport Gala in Bydgoszcz he was announced as the Athlete of the Year. Together with Anita Wlodarczyk, for the second time in a row, they won the Golden Spikes ranking. In the most prestigious challenge organised for the 76th time by the newspaper “Przeglad Sportowy”, he took seventh place in the voting for the best Polish sportsman of 2010.

The title also meant he needed a larger car park area. Malachowski only began driving in July when he finally received his license. His first car purchase was a BMW X5. A month later, he won a bet with a car dealer who said he’d give him a car if he won the European title. That resulted in a Mercedes R-class being added to his collection. Now two cars are parked in front of his newly purchased home.

He also whiled his time away with his trumpet, one he received from the fire brigade orchestra after the Beijing Olympic Games. He took up the trumpet as a teenager and plays with the orchestra on occasion.

On New Year’s Eve, with temperatures sitting at minus six degrees, he ran in a 10Km race in Brzoza, near Bydgoszcz. Despite missing his autumn training regiment, his time was about seven minutes faster than the year before, so he was doubly satisfied with his shape.

Ongoing goals – 70m, Diamond League title defense, and Daegu

Among his goals is to join the event’s still exclusive 70-metre Club. He managed twice, in Halle and in Eugene, but both efforts were marginal, three centimetre fouls. He’d like to have longer arms – he said that most of his rivals have a span at least 10 centimetres longer than his 206cm – but he shouldn’t complain too much. Since the beginning of his career, each subsequent year ended with a result better than the previous. He’s improved the Polish national record every year since 2005, most recently to 69.83m in Gateshead last July.

He also hopes to return to top form in time to defend his Diamond League title and to move up a step at the World Championships in Daegu.

“The Diamond League is a prestigious competition, and by the way, very well paid. This is the most profitable set up for the athletes in our event. Particularly since discus throwing isn’t as popular as sprinting or jumping.”

“And of course the icing on the cake would be a World Championship gold,” he said. “The competition in Daegu is very late, and after seven months I have to be at full speed. In the 2010 season my body could not stand such a long season. There was knee pain, the abdominal pain. In 2011 my top form must be delayed for several weeks. While obviously not giving up the fight for victory in the Diamond League.”

Malachowski is optimistic and speaks confidently of his 2011 goals. But he realises that this time, bouncing back from yet another injury, success will be even more difficult. More will be said in May after his first competition.

Janusz Rozum for the IAAF