…It was an exciting experiment…
…Aleksander Wierietielny had a long and illustrious career capped with his best known pupil, Justyna Kowalczyk, winning two Olympic golds, three FIS Cross-Country World Cups and incredible four Tour de Ski victories in a row.
The Soviet Union-born coach wanted to retire after the 2018 Olympics but none else than Ms. Kowalczyk had convinced him to stay for a few years to work on the project both fascinating and incredible: select a group of 16-17 year old Polish girls – and turn them into world-class skiers. It would be wrong to add the standard “money no object” but it was a very well funded project, money of course coming courtesy to Kowalchyk’s fame.
Poland is not Norway or Russia – the cross country skiing is not exactly a part of a school curriculum and a national lore. Yet two coaches – for Justyna was now both an active athlete and a coach – thought it is doable.
And it worked – and worked fairly fast. The female Polish relay squad would most likely have taken the gold medal at the World Juniors this year if not for a fatal wrong turn at the last leg. Relay debacle aside, a 19 year old Izabela Marcisz took three medals in Oberwiesenthal and is widely seen as one of the future leaders of the sport.
Martin Bajcicak, 43, from Slovakia was selected to continue what Wierietielny/ Kowalczyk started two years ago.
We had a quick chat with Justyna Kowalczyk today when the news broke:
– This was a Wierietielny’s idea but I know Martin well too, so I called to him and asked whether he is interested. Then we talked,me discussed things – a lot.
– Alexander and me, we are not quiting altogether, we both will continue as consultants.
– In all camps in Zakopane Wierietielny who lives there will be with the team.
– I also will be very close.. In the summer it will be one week per month with a team, during winter even more time, potentially.
– Need time for my family, for me and Kacper.
– Did I think about continuing racing in the winter? Still dont know. What I’m waiting for now is a better time for a wedding😇😇