Shock and disbelief – this is the shortest way to comment on the failed qualification of Oktawia Nowacka, Poland’s most successful pentathlete.
The bronze medallist of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will not appear in the semi-finals and will not win a medal of the European Games, despite her excellent performance in the morning fencing round and good swimming.
The Starogard Gdański-born athlete won as many as 22 bouts on the women’s fencing board and had the fourth fastest time in the 200 metres (2:14.54). As a result, she entered the laser run from first position, having a 14-second lead at the start over Sweden’s Marlena Jawaid. Just when it seemed that she had everything under control and advancing to the semi-finals was a formality, something strange started to happen during the shoot.
– I had a bit of trouble on the first shoot, ran two laps and thought it was going to be downhill and I would run at an even pace to the end. Suddenly on the third shoot I saw a wall in front of me. I felt so tired that I wasn’t able to hit the gun. On top of that I knocked it down, the gun fell under the table. Not only was it a hassle for me, but I also got 10 penalty seconds for putting the gun down dangerously. That’s a hell of a lot, I was racing for 18th place. What happened is what every athlete repeats in interviews. At any moment everything can turn upside down,” confessed a heartbroken Nowacka after the race.
The Polish team quickly lodged a protest because Nowacka was informed too late about the penalty. A bail of 60 euros was still paid and the nervous moments began as the judges began to analyse the case. Several tens of minutes after the end of the second qualifying run, in the completely deserted AWF Krakow stadium, Marcin Horbacz, the coach of the Polish national team, was informed that the original results had been upheld (Nowacka finished 19th) and that the protest had not been upheld.
– This is an old regulation, when we were still using shotgun. Maintained in the regulations even though we are already shooting with laser weapons. To top it all off, it was not Octavia’s fault, but the judge’s. As for the run itself, I’ve been in modern pentathlon longer than Oktawia and I don’t remember such a situation – explained coach Horbacz.
As a consolation, the other three Polish athletes – Natalia Dominiak, Anna Maliszewska and Marta Kobecka – advanced without any problems to the group of 36 athletes who will perform in the semi-finals.