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Polish Olympic Team – Rio de Janeiro 2016

Poland debuted at the Summer Olympics in Paris in 1924. The debut was successful and brought Poland two medals – a silver for the track cycling team and bronze for the horse rider Adam Królikiewicz in the show jumping competition. Since then, representatives of Poland have participated in every Summer Olympic Games (except for the games held in Los Angeles in 1984, when Poland’s absence was due to political reasons). The first gold for Poland was won in Amsterdam in 1928 by the discus thrower Halina Konopacka.

Poland’s athletes have won a total of 271 medals at the Summer Olympics (including 64 gold, 82 silver and 125 bronze medals). The most medals were won by track and field athletes, boxers, wrestlers and fencers. Poland won the largest haul of medals – 32 – in Moscow (1980), and the most gold medals – 7 – in Tokyo (1964), Munich (1972), Montreal (1976) and Atlanta (1996). Starting from Athens (2004), successive Olympic Games have added only 10 Olympic medals to Poland’s achievements, and Poland’s position in the world rankings has weakened. One of the reasons for this is the change in the “geography” of sport – many new, independent countries have been created. Sport has developed rapidly in Asia and Africa, which means it is more difficult to win a medal. The road to participation in the Olympics, leading through a complex system of qualifications, is also longer, especially for athletes from Europe. However, we are counting on the success of the Polish Olympic Team and the breaking of the 10-medal barrier.

The Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games (5–21 August 2016) will be the first such event in South America and – despite the 5-hour time difference – will certainly attract great interest in Poland, not only from sports fans. The WOMEN’S HAMMER THROW was included into the Olympic programme in Sydney in 2000. The inaugural competition was won by Kamila Skolimowska, who was just under 18 at the time.

She participated in two more Olympic Games (in Athens and Beijing). She broke the national record 15 times and was the Polish Champion 12 times. She died suddenly at a training camp in Portugal in February 2009. Her hammer-throwing friend, Anita Włodarczyk, is a worthy continuator of her achievements. She already has under her belt an Olympic silver medal (London 2012), two World Championship titles and the current world record. She is Poland’s great hope for an Olympic medal in Rio de Janeiro.

MOUNTAIN BIKING (MTB) has only been a fully-fledged sports discipline for a quarter of a century and first appeared at the Olympic Games in Atlanta (1996). The sport gained a foothold in Poland relatively quickly and in the following years Poland began to achieve considerable success in this discipline. It is the women who have achieved the most success: Anna Szafraniec, Aleksandra Dawidowicz and super champion Maja Włoszczowska. Maja Włoszczowska was the vice Olympic Champion in Beijing (2008) and the winner of 20 (!) medals (including 4 gold) in the World and European Championships in various MTB competitions. She won a bronze medal at the First European Games (Baku 2015). She should also be a strong link in Poland’s team in Rio.

Henryk Urbaś
Polish Olympic Committee