The 2010 Winter Olympic games were full of great stories of personal triumph and amazing athletic prowess. One such story that has gone greatly under-reported is that of Polish cross-country skiing starlet Justyna Kowalczyk.
Kowalczyk’s gold medal performance in the 30km classical is only the second time Poland has placed an athlete on top of the podium; the first Polish gold was captured by Wojciech Fortuna in ski-jumping at the 1972 games in Sapporo, Japan. Fortuna’s medal was the only one earned by a Polish athlete that year.
Kowalczyk finished her Vancouver games with a full collection of Olympic hardware, winning one medal each of gold, silver and bronze. Preceding her first place finish in the 30km classical, she won a silver medal in the individual sprint and a bronze in the 15km pursuit. Her three medals comprise half of her country’s total six medals; Poland finished the 2010 games with one gold, three silver, and two bronze.
With her bronze medal in the 30km freestyle from the 2006 Turin games, her four medals make her the most decorated Winter Games athlete Poland has ever seen. Kowalczyk is truly a world-class athlete with extreme talent, and at 27 years of age there may be more Winter Olympic medals on the horizon for Poland as fans of this one of a kind tournament experience set their sights on Sochi, Russia and the XXII Winter Olympic Games in 2014.