Poland’s National Sports Council (KOKO) offered Martha Rosiak more than 100 Olympic berths to win for her country.
Poland was entitled to receive 37 gold medals in fencing and Rosiak was likely to receive 28 of them. If all the requirements and awards were fulfilled, she could have been eligible for 37 Olympic berths. The jury at the Polish National Olympic Committee awards a medal to a silver or bronze.
But Rosiak was only eligible for three.
“In a country where history is written by elite athletes, she was the only gymnast to get even one Olympic medallion,” writes Polish writer Tomasz Polivka in The Village from which these Op-Eds appear.
Rosiak got none.
Had Rosiak gone home empty-handed, she would have had to pay back whatever she was given.
Like most young people, she wanted to use her talent to help her family financially. As an Olympic hopeful, the gold she received didn’t go to her family.
“When I realized that KOKO wasn’t awarding my diploma, I would have been very disappointed,” she said.
Rosiak used up her left-wing political credentials and became a pro-life activist.
Earlier this year, she wrote in support of the resolution of the Public Watchdog Committee of the Polish Congress of Atheists: “It is not democratic to be crowned into every elite competition with medals awarded for athletic achievements that have nothing to do with charity work.”
The PRA organization argued that only athletes who are positively relevant to society have the right to “proudly” wear the three-pointed stars.
In mid-September, Rosiak decided to act. She made a petition on the popular Polish petition site wordry.pl, calling on the KOKO to recognize her as a gold medalist.
Instead of collecting 100,000 signatures for her petition, Rosiak received a lot more. More than 200,000 signatures, and, as of Monday, she was at 240,000.
It took her less than a week to fulfill her dream.
Eager to participate in the upcoming European Championships, Rosiak informed KOKO, and then asked for a special appointment to present her request.
“I went by myself,” she says. “Not all countries appreciate my story, but more people supported me here.”
KOKO felt it necessary to give in.
On Sunday, Polish officials organized a special event in the honor of Rosiak at the Karl-Plank Gymnastics Center in Warsaw.
In her victory, Rosiak joins an exclusive club. By far, the most popular athletes of Poland are World Champion boxers Nadja Proksa and Pawel Wojtkowiak, World Champion fencer Bronislaw “Jesse” Veskimoytsewicz, World Championship-winning kayaker Anna Kadauoczek and cross-country champion Zofia Kargula.
“This is my chance to continue my dream.”
Selected by the United States Olympic Committee, she will represent the U.S. at the European Championships this December in Belgrade, Serbia.
Then, in 2021, she can look forward to representing her country at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
And she hopes to receive the gold medal.
“The ideal of the Olympic Games is a dream,” she says. “This is my chance to continue my dream.”
Her phone hasn’t stopped ringing since she accepted the offer. “This was my first newspaper interview and now I’m becoming famous,” she says.
About a quarter of the signatures she received came from abroad.
“Americans love winning medals. And I am one of the stars,” she says.
— Guest writer, Jeré Longman, Russia correspondent for The New York Times, is the author of Beneath the Veil: A German Family’s Quest for Freedom in Iran (June 2018).