December 15th, 2010
Being a gracious winner and a good loser is hardly a unique concept in sport, and fortunately in skiing the concept is more often than not practiced.
And when you take home $366,250 in prize money for the 2010 season and have an overall World Cup title, four Olympic medals, three World Championship medals, and 13 World Cup victories, one would expect that winning and losing with grace should not be too hard a challenge.
But Justyna Kowalczyk (POL), one of the greatest Polish sports stars of all time has, for some strange reason, chosen to crusade against Marit Bjoergen’s use of asthma medication, protested a clear disqualification for obstruction, and been relegated for skating in a classic sprint.
She has gained a reputation as a dirty skier on the World Cup, and instead of letting her results speak for themselves, has stooped to the level of attacking her opposition.
With each incident, Kowalczyk loses face in the public eye. She should keep her mouth shut and worry about skiing faster.
And her move on Kikkan Randall in the sprint final in Davos stank of desperation. Kowalczyk does not have the speed to close out a sprint race, and is clearly not at the Bjoergen-esque level of being able to ski away in 1.4km race.
FasterSkier had the opportunity to speak with Kowalczyk in Canmore last year, and she was accommodating and friendly. At Olympic press conferences, she was always complimentary of those who defeated her, and when asked if the minutes spent waiting for the results of a photo finish “were the worst of her life,” she laughed and made some comment about it “just being skiing” – impressive perspective for a professional athletes.
All of this makes her recent behavior even more inexplicable. There seems so little to gain, and she has already lost quite a bit. As one of the great skiers of her generation, it does not behoove her to act in such an immature manner.
She should take a page out of Pete Vordenberg’s book and only worry about the things she can control – not Bjoergen’s inhaler.
And when disqualified for a blatant case of obstruction, she should take her punishment and move on. The “this will not stand” attitude from the Kowalczyk camp is less than impressive.
I feel confident that had an American or Canadian similarly stepped in front of an opponent in the finish stretch, because they knew they couldn’t win otherwise, coaches, athletes and fans would be embarrassed, and most definitely not supportive.
Kowalczyk is an incredible athlete and an amazing skier. Along with several other women, she has brought great excitement to the sport, weekend after weekend, and her dedication is impressive.
Hopefully she can go back to making headlines with her racing and hold her line on the way to the finish.
Tags: Justyna Kowalczyk