59 athletes have started with fencing in the European Games, where qualification for the Olympic Games in Paris is also at stake. On Sunday at around 5.45 pm – already after the next swimming and laser run competitions – the 36 who will make it to Tuesday’s semi-finals will be announced.
The Polish national team composed of: Natalia Dominiak, Anna Maliszewska, Oktawia Nowacka, Marta Kobecka, Łukasz Gutkowski, Kamil Kasperczak, Daniel Ławrynowicz and Sebastian Stasiak are competing for five sets of medals – women individually and as a team, men individually and as a team and in the mixed relay. The competition at the Bronisław Czech University of Physical Education in Krakow will last (30 June is a break day) until 1 July.
Nearly 120 of the best athletes from all over Europe will take part in the competition, and at stake are not only European Games medals, but also qualifications for next year’s Olympic Games in Paris – the best eight ladies and the best eight men will win nominations.
– At the same time, there can only be one athlete from one country in the top eight. We are privileged because of the popularity of pentathlon on the Old Continent. In comparison, the Americas have two athletes each, plus the best from the next place. Asia also has five places, and Africa and Oceania have one place each,’ explains Janusz Peciak, president of the Polish Modern Pentathlon Association.
Oktawia Nowacka is the only Polish woman to stand on the Olympic Games podium – she won a bronze medal in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. This year, the most important event for her will be the European Games Krakow – Małopolska 2023 – ‘Here you can win a direct Olympic qualification,’ she stresses.
Among Polish athletes, apart from Nowacka, only four men have stood on the Olympic podium. The gold medals were won by Janusz Pyciak-Peciak (1976), today the president of the association, Arkadiusz Skrzypaszek (1992) and the team in Barcelona (Skrzypaszek, Maciej Czyżowicz, Dariusz Goździak). The Pole is the world champion (team) and twice bronze medallist in the relay. She has a silver medal at the European Championships to her credit.
As is often the case in modern pentathlon, she is a professional soldier in the rank of lance corporal.
– Modern pentathlon was introduced to the Games by the founder of the modern Olympic idea, Pierre de Coubertin. His idea was to make a discipline for the best possible soldier, this soldier had to ride on horseback, wield white weapons, firearms, swim and run, i.e. one who could cope with any conditions,” explains Nowacka in an interview on the website of the Central Sports Centre. – Initially, pentathlon was trained only by men and only by military personnel. With time, civilians were admitted to the discipline, and many years later, women too. It is now a completely civilian sport, but its roots are in the military.
– Europeans have dominated the sport for 100 years. Even before World War II, Marshal Jozef Pilsudski ordered every officer to practice modern pentathlon. Who knows that the originator Pierre de Coubertin proposed canoeing instead of fencing? – says President Peciak about the curiosities. The first time modern pentathlon appeared at the IO in Stockholm in 1912.
In the Krakow qualifiers, the athletes fight with a sword, with hits scored in all parts of the body. They then swim 200 metres in freestyle, and finally run 3 km with laser pistol shooting. Every 600 metres, the competitors drop into the shooting range with 50 seconds to fire five accurate shots. The horse competition will only be in the finals.