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Justyna Kowalczyk – In Her Own Words

Hard to overestimate the role Justyna Kowalczyk played for the sport of cross country skiing this century. Fantastic results on the tracks made it clear that talented and committed athlete even from non-skiing nation could win, repeatedly and convincigly. Justyna’s openness and polite directness made her a true household name in Poland and well beyond that.

With the athletes of the statute and the recognition of Ms.Kowalczyk it is common to retire with a directorship on the board of some large corporation, to land a lucrative contract on television and to sell the book rights. In other words – to exploit well-deserved fame

Yet Justyna Kowalczyk is still on the ski tracks, in remote training camps, freezing by the side watching “her girls”, the group she and her coach Alexander Wierietielny assembled, compete.

We absolutely wanted to know Why. And also How, What and When.

Here’s our conversation that we, as normally do, will split into several parts. Here’s a Part I:


The time has come for me to retire from the top level skiing. The decision was taken before the Pyeongchang Olympics and I thought “how do I transfer my experience – and sponsors – to young girl-skiers”? I approached the coach ( Alexander Wierietielny) – but he initially said no – he felt tired and wanted to retire. “ Justyna, I hardly have strength to start again from the very beginning” he told me. It is complicated to work with very, very young ones when you used to manage grown-up, experienced athletes.
And I told him “Let’s do it for a year or two – and see how the things are going. If they are not going well – well, we’ll quit.”
It was a calculated decision to take very young ones and do everything right in development. Step by step…
The top level skiing demands quality support: training camps in right places, ski servicemen, smart training plans. And it helps a lot when young skiers could look up to somebody who achieved something in cross country skiing ( laughs)
Poland is not like those big skiing countries that have everything: lots of coaches, ski clubs etc. etc.
But there is Alexander Wierietielny who achieved results with Justyna Kowalczyk
I handle all the logistics – what, where, how. – organize participating in competitions, find hotels, decide who of servicemen will go with which athletes where and so on, and so on
In pre-season we train together but in season split into 3 groups. Both Wierietielny and me are writing individual training plans. We have the same opinion most of the time. The coach ( Wierietielny ) is nicer, gentler on the girls – he assures and supports them. I’m the bad cop
I was not just competing – I was living this life for over 15 years. And I know there are a lot of things, sometimes little things, that you do or don’t do that would matter at the end…
… These girls are not quite there yet, they do not understand that yet – and there is nothing wrong with that . But they are learning, learning fast
– and they shall get there

End of Part I

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