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The Warsaw Voice » Society » March 31, 2011
Sport & Society
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Ma造sz Calls It Quits
March 31, 2011   
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Adam Ma造sz, the most popular Polish athlete of the past decade, has announced he is ending his ski jumping career after 15 years of success across the world.

Adam Ma造sz, now 34, is one of the best ski jumpers in history. He has won four Olympic medals, four World Championship titles, four World Cup titles, including three in a row, and has also won the most prestigious ski jumping event, known as the Four Hills Tournament. He is a Polish record holder in ski jumping, with the longest jump of 230.5 meters. He is the first ever ski jumper to have crossed the barrier of 100 jumps longer than 200 meters.

Ma造sz’s family has a long ski jumping tradition. His great grandfather had his own ski jumping hill where local competitors executed jumps of around 50 meters, an impressive length at the time. His father was a driver for the local Wis豉 Sports Club, while his uncle, Jan Szturc, was a well-known jumper and a coach at the club. So it is not surprising that the future champion made his first jump at the age of six, in 1983. Ten years later, in January 1993, he made his World Cup debut in a Nordic combined event. That same year, he won a bronze medal at the Polish junior ski jumping championships. A year later Ma造sz won the national championships on the medium hill in the resort of Zakopane and was second on the large hill.

In the autumn of 1994, Ma造sz joined the Polish national ski-jumping team. On Jan. 13, 1996, in Engelberg, he was among the top 10 competitors in a World Cup event for the first time in his career. On March 17, at the last World Cup event of the season in Oslo, Ma造sz won his first World Cup competition.

The years that followed brought him a run of disappointment. After the 1997/1998 season and in the course of the next season, Ma造sz considered ending his sporting career and starting work as a roofer, a trade he had learned in a vocational school. However, he managed to overcome his streak of bad luck, changed his coach and began his triumphant march to the top at the start of the next decade.

In the 2000/2001 season, Ma造sz became the first Polish ski jumper to win the Four Hills Tournament (FHT). His lead over the runner-up exceeded 100 points, the widest gap ever. He was also the first jumper to score more than 1,000 points in the four FHT events—in Obersdorf, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Innsbruck and Bischofshofen. In February 2001, at the World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland, Ma造sz took the gold and silver on the medium and large hills respectively. Those were the first medals for Poland in Nordic skiing since 1978 when cross-country skier J霩ef ㄆszczek won a gold in the 15 km and a bronze in the 30 km.

In the 2000/2001 season, Ma造sz scored 11 wins in World Cup events. He is the only jumper to have won more than half of all events in a season. He was the first Pole to win the World Cup in ski jumping. He repeated his success in the 2001/2002, 2002/2003 and 2006/2007 seasons. He is the only jumper to have won the World Cup three times in a row and the second jumper after Matti Nykaenen of Finland to have won it four times in total.

In 2002, Ma造sz grabbed two medals at the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, a bronze in the medium hill event and a silver in the large hill event. His bronze was the first winter Olympic medal by a Polish athlete since 1972, when Wojciech Fortuna unexpectedly took the gold at the Sapporo Olympic Games—the only major success in Fortuna’s career. In the 2001/2002 season, Ma造sz did not rank lower than the top 10 in any of the World Cup events, scoring a total of 1,475 points. In 2003, at the World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Ma造sz was the first jumper in 29 years to win world championship titles on both the medium and large hills. Additionally, he set new records on both hills, 107.5 meters and 136 meters respectively. In the 2002/2003 season, he scored 1,357 points.

In the next few seasons, Ma造sz’s performance was weaker. He was 12th in the 2003/2004 World Cup season and fourth in the 2004/2005 season. He was also unspectacular at the Winter Olympics in Turin, taking seventh place on the medium hill and 14th on the large hill.

He made a comeback in the 2006/2007 season, winning the World Cup for the fourth time. During the last World Cup weekend at Planica in 2007, he won all three events and moved from third to first place, scoring a total of 1,453 points during the season. In 2007, at the World Championships in Sapporo, he won gold on the K-90 hill. As a result, with four gold and one silver medal, he became the jumper with the largest number of medals in the history of the championships.

At the Vancouver Olympic Games in 2010, Ma造sz was treated more as a veteran jumper than a favorite. But he surprised everyone, winning silver medals in both events.

Ma造sz produced the longest jump in his career, 230.5 meters, at the World Cup event in Vikersund on Feb. 13 this year. On Feb. 26, Ma造sz won his sixth World Championship medal—a bronze on the medium hill at Oslo. After the large hill event at Oslo, in which he placed 11th, Ma造sz said he was ending his sporting career.

Ma造sz executed his last World Cup jump at a ski flying competition at Planica, Slovenia, March 20. His jump was so good that Ma造sz claimed third place in the competition and also finished third in this year’s overall World Cup standings.

This was the last competition of the season and Ma造sz’s last World Cup podium.

Polish fans were doubly elated because the March 20 competition at Planica ended with the victory of Kamil Stoch, the number two jumper in the Polish team throughout the season.
Throughout his career, Ma造sz has won 39 World Cup events, second only to Nykaenen, with 46 wins. He has made the podium 92 times, second to Janne Ahonen of Finland, with 108 podiums.

Ma造sz’s successes sparked off what was known as “Ma造sz-mania” in Poland, with millions of people rooting for him in front of TV screens. The largest audience, at 14 million, was recorded during the 2002 Olympic Games. Ma造sz-mania gave rise to a souvenir business related to the jumper and inspired numerous jokes and standup comedy acts. Ma造sz’s popularity has earned him lucrative advertising contracts. Last year, he ranked 30th on the Forbes list of the wealthiest show-business celebrities in Poland, with over zl.450,000 in income from advertising. In 2009, Ma造sz was named Athlete of Two Decades—the biggest sports star in the country since the fall of communism in 1989—by sports daily Przegl康 Sportowy.

Since Ma造sz announced his decision to quit ski jumping, the media has been speculating about what he will be doing in the future. Some suggest he will become an adviser to the Polish Skiing Association. After the World Championships in Oslo, Ma造sz said, “Jumping is my all life. I would like to pass my experience on to young people.”

24-year-old Stoch, who finished 10th in this year’s World Cup, may become Ma造sz’s successor.

Another rumor is that Ma造sz, who is known for his passion for automobile races, will try his hand at rally racing. Top Polish rally race driver Krzysztof Ho這wczyc said he would not be surprised if the famous jumper joined the next Dakar Rally or another event of this stature.

Adam Ma造sz won The Warsaw Voice’s Chair of the Year 2001 award as the individual who had the greatest impact on public life in Poland that year.“He never lost his modesty and never showed a lack of gallantry for his rivals (…) He was just the man we dreamed of,” editor-in-chief Andrzej Jonas wrote at the time.
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