JUSTYNA KOWALCZYK – CROSS COUNTRY SKIING
Kowalczyk is not only one of Poland’s top winter sports athletes, but one of the world’s. Having won a bronze in Turin, she scooped two golds and a bronze in 2009, and has continued to impress in the current season, most recently winning the Tour de Ski in Italy by dramatically passing rival Petra Majdic of Slovenia in the final stage on an uphill climb normally used as a downhill slope. With her incredible stamina and focus, the 27-year-old Kowalczyk is poised to seize medals and along with them, the Polish national imagination, much as Adam Małysz did at the turn of the 21st century.
MACIEJ JODKO – SNOWBOARDCROSS
Jodko may be among the most adrenaline-addicted of all Polish extreme athletes, with 10 Polish championships in downhill mountain biking. He took the most serious spill of his career during a snowboardcross event in mid-January, hitting his face on a hardened portion of the course, losing consciousness, and sliding several metres down the course. While he appears ready for the games now, in the rough-and-tumble and unpredictable snowboardcross, Maciej may have a tough time in a strong field of French, Canadian, and American racers.
PAULINA LIGOCKA – SNOWBOARDING HALF-PIPE
Ligocka (fellow Olympic snowboarder Michał Ligocki‘s cousin) is coming off of a high after winning first place in the Burton European Open by landing a very impressive Frontside 900, the most difficult trick in the women’s half-pipe. If she keeps up that form, she could be on the road to a podium in Vancouver. Ligocka carried the flag for Poland at the last games in Turin in 2006, where she placed 17th.
ADAM MAŁYSZ – SKI JUMP
Winner of four World Cups, including an unprecedented three in a row, four world championships, two Olympic medals and 78 career podiums since 1996, Małysz has earned his once towering celebrity in Poland. Having now lost some of his lustre after a couple of weaker seasons, he is still considered a medal threat.
TOMASZ SIKORA – BIATHLON
At 36, Sikora can look back at a long career of brilliant successes, including 21 World Cup event podiums that include five wins. In his Olympic career, he has, remarkably, placed better and better in each of the four Games he has competed in to date, earning his first medal, a silver, in the mass start in 2006. This year may be Sikora’s best, and almost certainly his last, real chance at Olympic gold. 2008-2009 saw him finish second overall in the World Cup, a personal best.