On the street, it’s better to be a weightlifter than a PlayStation champion

Written by | Posted under Strong Like Bull | 5 years ago

There are legends about mental durability of Polish weightlifters. It is not that they are genetically tougher, sometimes the environment taught them toughness. This is a collection of bits and pieces from different interviews.

See for yourself:



When there was minus 15 Celsius outside (5 F), temperature inside the gym was 0 to minus 5 (23-32 F). When going to school in the morning, you had to put the barbell on the coal stove. If you forgot, the barbell would be frozen in the afternoon session, and skin of your hand would freeze to the barbell later.

bonk przysiad z przodu

Bartek Bonk



Sometimes there was a line of 10 boys waiting for their turn at the platform with only one barbell, so everybody had to stand in patience.



He didn’t have anything against the frosting on the walls inside the gym. The warmest it was when in the morning one of the couches would come in to start the fire, then in the afternoon, after school the kids would not have to freeze. On those lucky days the temperature inside the gym would be 15 Celsius (59F), and that was a real luxury. He was not very discouraged, even though sometimes he had to wear real gloves, otherwise barbell would freeze to the skin of the hands, and that would be less luxurious.



I used to lift weights in a different way those days. There was no possibility that I would not make the lift. No matter if it was 5 or 10 attempts, my eyes bulging outside the orbits, or something would give out, there was no possibility that I would give up. But then came the time, after injuries, when I had several medals on international stage already, I noticed that I did not have that determination anymore. Seems as the same training volume,intensity, or healthy lifestyle do not change, but that last nail and hammer were missing.



There are times when people would start with me on the street. Last time there five of us against around 40 thugs in the bar. They were frustrated, because they were losers, and could only afford the cheapest drinks. We were able to defend ourselves until the owner called the police.



Bogdan Cofalik

Bogdan Cofalik

I had to try to win. I told myself before the Olympics that the last attempt in clean and jerk would be to win the gold no matter what. No matter the weight, I was ready to go for 240 kg (529 lbs), if I had to, I would try any weight just to win. The 228 kg (502 lbs) that I actually attacked for the gold was quite possible, but the weight put me too much behind on my heels at the bottom of the clean, and in that position I was starting to lose the wind. When I started the recovery from the bottom, I was weaker and weaker almost passing out.



When it hurts less I train with full intensity. Sometimes with the higher pain level there is only training to sustain strength. However, pain is never the reason to stop lifting completely. In this sport, there is no place for weaklings, you have to be strong.



Polish weightlifting, gold medals, many legends. None of the most famous lifters came from a big city. This sport belongs to small cities, villages, barns, and undergrounds. And peasant’s stubbornness. There weren’t any tennis courts or golf courses. These sports are for city folks. The symbol of Polish province is the Saturday dance night. On those evenings, it is much better to be a weightlifter, than a tennis player, or champion of the PlayStation. In the province, the real man is a strong man. Weightlifting is a safe sport, because the hooligans are scared of you.


Szymon Kolecki

Szymon Kolecki

Local thugs have respect for me. Once one of them did not respect me. I did not hit him, I picked him up and hang on some hook by the collar of his rags.



I’m never angry at my competition, just angry at myself. If I fuck up, for a second I am unpredictable. Typically it shows in a boxing manner. It’s a little problem when there are thing to repair after that. Additionally, without a boxing glove, your hand might get injured.


Szymon Kolecki

Szymon Kolecki


Sometimes when I get up from bed I cannot straighten my back. Then I get a blockade injection between disks so I cannot feel anything. I am an athlete, and I have to do everything for the medal.



His grandfather, an army officer, was executed by soviets. His family suffered during ethnic cleansing by Stalin’s troops. He was very ambitious and in the Olympics wanted really the gold medal, but most of all to destroy the Russian lifters.



I can always change the sport and still be successful. Maybe mixed martial arts?



There is so much anger and aggression in me… if I can transfer it to a barbell, I can get another medal.



Sometimes thugs were picking on me on the street thinking that just because I was very short I’d be intimidated. Once I said to the bully to leave me alone, that he should be fighting the guys of his size. I knew that would piss him off. He made a step forward, and got a punch, case closed. Typically, I was avoiding unnecessary fights, but this time I was with my wife. Besides, why not? Was I supposed to run away?



There is a legend in the weightlifting world, that when he was a little under the influence, and communist militia wanted to book him in, he picked and overturned their cop car.



It was hard, but I think that the harder environment, the better the results. It is important to temper not only your body, but also your mind. Maybe if I had had the perfect training conditions, I wouldn’t have won an Olympic gold medal?



Are these guys tough or what?


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