Athletics “the mother of sports” will be part of the European Games programme for the third time, but for the first time in the format of the European Team Championships. Justyna Swiety-Ersetic, ambassador of Silesian Stadium and Olympic medallist, makes no secret of her joy at competing there.
After competing at the Polish Championships in Torun, you decided to end the indoor season and let go of competing in Istanbul. Is it time for regeneration?
I think it is a bit, although I only had one day off and I’m back to training. They are certainly calmer and looser now. It’s a moment where I can recuperate a bit, relax, stay at home more. In a fortnight’ time I’ll be starting a training camp to prepare me for the stadium season.
What will your preparations for the season in the open stadium look like? Are they any different to those preparing for the indoor?
They differ mainly in that we have more time for them. The indoor cycle is a bit accelerated because there is less time. For the preparation for the stadium season, I already have two foreign training camps planned, so I will mainly be preparing in much higher temperatures. In these conditions, you can do a lot more in training.
What is your assessment of your current disposition?
After the Polish Championships there’s a slight malaise, but I can see that everything is going in the right direction. I only had two indoor starts, so for me it’s very, very little. It was only during the 400 metres final that I reached my best disposition. I would also need such a start before the World Championships. For now, it is what it is, and the most important thing is that I am healthy, nothing hurts and I can continue with my training. I think I can enter the season preparations with a calm head.
What about mental preparation? You once mentioned that unpleasant comments happen in your direction.
I think I have rebuilt myself after last season because it was very taxing and unpleasant for me. Now I’m trying to focus on what I’m doing and making it all fun. I want to enjoy the season on the treadmill again, to go down after the starts with a smile on my face, and if I cry, to make sure it’s only tears of happiness.
We have big events ahead of us this year, such as the European Games and the World Championships in Budapest. Have the goals already been set?
First of all, I am very happy that there will be athletics in the European Games in such a format. The Team European Games are an opportunity for us to show our best and at home. Such things add motivation. Moreover, the competition will take place in Chorzow and it is a place where we love to compete. There are always fans and I am looking forward to this competition. The World Championships in Budapest will also be very memorable, as it will be our target event where I would like to fight for the best possible results.
The European Games will take place slightly earlier than the World Cup, how important is this event to you?
During the EG, I will already be at full speed for the season in the stadium. It will not only be an opportunity for me, but for everyone to see what stage of preparation we are at. It’s the European Team Championships, so it’s a fight for every point. I think this formula of competition is good, because there is always a nice atmosphere at such moments, we drive each other on, because we are not fighting just for ourselves, but just to get as many points as possible for the whole team.
You are an ambassador for the Silesian Stadium, will the EG at this venue be something special for you?
I always emphasise that I love competing in Chorzow. You run very well there and you can achieve sensational results. If I have the opportunity to compete at the Silesian Stadium, I am always very happy because I come from here and a large part of my family attends every competition. This motivates me and makes me happy, so I wish that as many events as possible were held in the Kociol Czarownic. I believe that during this year’s EG my family will also come and support me from the stands.
You once spoke about how competing at the Olympic Games in Paris could be one of your last big events. What would you like to achieve by then, is there a barrier you would like to break through?
My main drive is to break the 50 second barrier in the 400 metres. That’s what I’d like to try and I know it’s within my reach, only my health has to finally kick in and maybe then I can achieve it. If not, I want to say to myself at the Paris Games that I have tried everything and if I don’t succeed, that’s tough, but if I do, I will be a very happy and fulfilled athlete. There’s no kidding, I’m almost 31 now, so the Olympic Games in Paris will slowly be the end of my sporting career.
And perhaps the European Games would be the perfect culmination of your work? Not in terms of the end of your career, but to break the 50 second barrier in front of your home crowd, in that magical Kociol Czarownic? Is such a scenario being considered?
As you can see, anything is possible in sport, so I’m not saying no. However, I don’t want to put so much pressure on myself that I have to do this and that just at this event, because then it’s really difficult to achieve good results. For me, the most important thing is to be healthy, and hopefully the result will come sooner or later.
Which rival do you consider the most formidable, in the battle for the titles?
Main rival and favourite to win medals is Femke Bol. The question is what she will do whether she will continue to run hurdles or try to combine it. This is a girl who runs in a different galaxy. She has currently broken the indoor world record and that is already really fast running. I wish I could run like that in the stadium, and this girl does it in the indoor. She is an athlete to admire, emulate and strive to tread on her toes. It is in a class of her own.
Like many athletes, you are also in the military. How do you manage to reconcile these two worlds, they are probably completely different?
Completely different, but there are also many determinants in common. In both sport and the military you have to be disciplined. When I went for military training, I was a bit scared because all I had in my head was ‘what, I’m going to do here, it’s a completely different world’, but I actually really enjoyed it. There are a lot of commonalities, and I’m happy to represent the Polish Army in international arenas. We also have our games and competitions where we can prove ourselves. I always say that there is nothing difficult for a wannabe and you can combine all this with peace of mind, and I also have my studies. You have to have a good plan and everything has to be organised from start to finish.
In that case, what can I wish you? Health?
I think yes. If there’s health, I’ll be able to train and I think if that’s the case, I’ll be able to cope with everything later with hard work in training.