During the III European Games Kraków-Małopolska 2023, the first medals will be handed out in sport climbing, in which we have a very strong representation. The competition will take place in Tarnow, where among others, world champion Natalia Kałucka comes from, who, together with her sister Aleksandra, is one of the biggest stars of the discipline. As she says, she is very proud that her hometown will host this great event, because she got involved in climbing partly thanks to the fact that she had such opportunities in Tarnow.
You are already a world champion and you have medals at the European Championships, World Games and World Cup. There are only a few 21-year-olds as successful as you. I don’t think you have much left?
I believe that a lot is ahead of me! I have a lot of medals, but not all gold. Well, there are also the Olympic Games and the European Games left.
Are you the type of athlete who sets specific goals for the season?
Every athlete before the season should assume for himself which starts are the most important, which target events he has. That’s why I write out my starting goals for myself in January. I try to make them ambitious, but I also never write down “gold medal,” although it happens to write down “medal position.”
In women’s climbing we are a powerhouse, as the recent European Championships showed. Where did this Polish phenomenon come from?
A lot of people ask about it. Our women’s team is five strong athletes, and each has a completely different story and comes from a different background. That’s why I think it’s a bit of a coincidence, but in general we are a very hard-working nation, and in this sport it works.
And how did you get into the sport? Because as far as I know, you don’t come from a particularly athletic family.
There was no tradition of sports in my family, but my sister and I have always been busy children who jumped over furniture, over carpet hanger and over trees. Climbing for such a child was ideal.
Most active children end up in team games, sometimes in athletics. How did it happen that you exactly chose climbing?
Climbing has always been popular in Tarnow. I lived near the sports hall, where the sport was practiced. And durning the summer the city organized events for children, where there were free classes. My sister and I found out about it, we went to try it and it was love at first sight.
After your successes, have more people become interested in this discipline?
Certainly, more people realize that climbing isn’t only about rocks and mountains, but also about sport climbing. More people are beginning to “embrace the subject.” And it happens to meet kids who watched competitions on TV and started climbing because they saw me or another athlete from the team.
Ahead of you, are the European Games, whose program includes sport climbing, held in your hometown of Tarnow. Will it be a special start?
I am very happy that these competitions will take place in Tarnow. I’m proud that my city, my province is organizing the European Games and I hope that I will have the opportunity to compete, because let’s remember that only two people from our country will get such an opportunity.
It isn’t without reason that climbing will be the first medal competition at the event. Do you feel extra pressure on yourself?
I try not to think about it. I don’t read, I don’t ask people. I’m focused on myself, on my form, and not on the pressure from other people.
You’ve been working with a sports psychologist for some time. Is this an important part of your preparation?
I believe that especially in my competition, the head is 80% of success and without working with a psychologist, I certainly wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I’ve achieved in these two years. It’s an integral part of preparing for the season.
Especially since you’re said to be the “weepy” type.
I’m proud of myself, because I’ve recently gotten over it (laughs). I’m a very emotional person who cares a lot and I happen to cry. I can boast that now the entire preparatory period I have not cried, so that I feel grown up! My crying comes from this emotional approach to sports.
You’re not only an athlete, but also a student. How do you reconcile this?
It’s not easy, I have it harder than such an average student, but the university supports me. I’m also in the academic national team program and I also have individual classes. So that somehow I manage.
And how do you spend your free time?
I have two cats, who are like my children. They are my greatest love. I mainly take care of them, read books, mostly about fantasy, so that I get away from reality and outside of that, unfortunately, there is no time for anything else.