|05.08.2016, 16:41||◄ last page|
FEATURE: Backcourt ace Karol Bielecki is one of 10 Vive Tauron Kielce players at the Olympics and he has been selected Poland’s flag bearer. However, this honour has not always had a positive impact in the past
Bielecki fights against Polish flag bearer curse
No less than 10 players from KS Vive Tauron Kielce take to the court for various national teams at the Olympic Games in Rio.*
There is only one club that has sent more players to the Games; 11 play for French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain Handball.
“I’m very proud of them,” says head coach Talant Dujshebaev who currently is in Rio as head coach of the Polish national team.
“It’s great that everyone will be able to see how hard we work in the club, that the players will represent not only their countries but also our team.”
The coach of Kielce adds that he only misses one player to be fully happy. “I wish Julen Aguinagalde was there too, he would have deserved it.” The Spanish national team failed to qualify for the Olympics.
10 players from four countries
The 10 Kielce players stem from Poland, Slovenia, Croatia and Germany. The first group is the biggest and it consists of Sławomir Szmal, Michał Jurecki, Krzysztof Lijewski, Karol Bielecki, Mateusz Kus, Mateusz Jachlewski and the two backup players and Mariusz Jurkiewicz.
From Slovenia there is the captain Uros Zorman. From Croatia there is Manuel Strlek and from Germany it is Tobias Reichmann, All-star right wing at the EHF EURO 2016.*
Despite having so many teammates in Rio it is all about focus says goalkeeper Slawomir Szmal.
“We don’t talk about our medal chances. For each of us it was the most important to get in on the squad and not to get injured,” says Slawomir Szmal.
And what does Mateusz Kus think about the “Kielce possy” in the Polish national team. “It’s easier for me when I have Krzysiek Lijewski or Michał Jurecki near to me and Mateusz Jachlewski in front of me in defence,” he says. “We know each other better from the club so we get on together well on the court.”
The line player adds that on the other hand it is sometimes hard to see the same faces all over again. “Sometimes it’s a bit too much,” he says, “but luckily our coach gave us a few longer and shorter breaks when we could take a rest from each other. And I share my room with Michał Szyba, so at least in the morning I don’t see faces from Kielce,” he adds with a smile.
Flag bearer curse
For Karol Bielecki, the Olympics are even more special this year. The backcourt ace will be the Polish flag bearer.
His teammates are a bit torn about this idea. They think Bielecki deserves it, but on the other hand there is something like a flag bearer’s curse in Poland – only very few of them have returned home with Olympic medals.
Four years ago, tennis player, 2012 flag bearer and 2012 Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwańska dropped out of the tournament already in the first round. She lost to Julia Görges, a player she had beaten at all previous encounters before.
Mateusz Kus is one of the players who does not mind the curse at all. “I hope we will finish this curse and we will fight! He (Bielecki) definitely deserved this distinction,” he says.
*This article was updated following the release of the official squad lists after the technical meeting in Rio on 5 April.
TEXT: Magda Pluszewska / ts