Poland’s Best Olympics
Of The 21st Century
14 Medals: 4 Gold, 5 Silver and 5 Bronze
By Robert Strybel
The year-late 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games brought Poland a total of 14 medals: 4 gold, 5 silver and 5 bronze. Amid pandemic precautions including strict monitoring of athletes’ vaccination status and spectator-free grandstands, it was our ancestral homeland’s best Olympic performance of the 21st century.
Rowers won the country’s first medal in women’s quadruple sculls, narrowly missing the gold which went to China by a mere 6.23 seconds. Poland’s first Tokyo gold was captured in the mixed 4×400 meter relay, setting a new European and Olympic record of 3:09.87. Nine of Poland’s 14 medals were won in other track events.
The indefatigable Anita Włodarczyk clinched her third successive Olympic gold medal in the women’s hammer throw. Gold was also captured in the men’s hammer throw by Wojciech Nowicki. David Tomala surprised everyone by winning a gold medal for Poland. in the 50 kilometer (31 mile) race walk.
Silver and bronze were collected in other track competitions (including women’s 4×400 meter relay, hammer throw and javelin), water sports (rowing, canoeing, sailing) and wrestling. Probably the biggest setback was suffered in men’s volleyball. Although World volleyball champion Poland was the generally acknowledged favorite, they succumbed to France which got the gold.
Things began with a whiff of scandal when six of Poland’s 23 swimmers got sent back home. Tokyo had trimmed the list to 17, citing world swimming regulations. The disqualified swimmers were furious, while the Polish Swimming Federation shifted the blame for the mix-up to the Japanese organizers.
Originally planned for 2020, the games. were postponed for a year over pandemic concerns. The reborn Poland that emerged from World War I after 123 years of foreign occupation made its Olympic début at the 1924 Paris summer games, There our ancestral homeland won a very modest two medals: silver (cycling) and bronze /(equestrian). All told, Poland has brought home 320 Olympic medals: 79 gold, 96 silver and 145 bronze.
Since 1924, Polish athletes have competed in every Olympic edition except 1984. As an unwilling member of the Soviet bloc, that year it was forced to boycott the Los Angeles summer games amid a cold-war dispute over Moscow’s aggression in Afghanistan. At the previous Tokyo Olympics held in 1964, Poland fared somewhat better than this year, capturing a total of 23 medals.