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The Warsaw Voice » Society » July 30, 2012
Politics & Society
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New Hope
July 30, 2012   
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After Poland ignominiously crashed out of the European soccer championships in June, sports fans cheered up pretty quickly—thanks to the national volleyball team and 23-year-old tennis ace Agnieszka Radwańska.

For the first time, Poland, led by Italian coach Andrea Anastasi, won the Volleyball World League. And they did so in great style. The Poles had to play a fifth tie-breaking set in the first match with Brazil—they won 3-2. But in later stages of the tournament they did not lose a single set, winning 3-0 every time—first against Cuba, then defeating tournament hosts Bulgaria, and going on to beat current Olympic champions the United States in the final. The Poles simply overpowered their opponents in the last match—by the end of it, the Americans were flummoxed and made embarrassing mistakes. In the semifinal between Poland and Bulgaria, angry Bulgarian fans attacked Polish players, throwing bits of chairs, cigarette lighters and other objects in their direction. For several minutes the sports arena in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, resembled a battlefield. The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) said an investigation would be held and severe penalties imposed for the unprecedented scandal.

Success in Sofia has whetted Polish fans’ appetite for success in the forthcoming Olympic Games. The Polish players, who are going to London as favorites, cautioned fans against being too confident, but said they would be aiming for gold.

Agnieszka Radwańska, Poland’s best woman tennis player in recent years, is also psyching up for Olympic success following her best performance so far after making it to the final of the prestigious Wimbledon Championships. In the final, the 23-year-old was outplayed by Serena Williams, who was the favorite. It was the second time that a Polish female player made it to a Wimbledon final. The first was Jadwiga Jędrzejowska in 1937.

Experts praised Radwańska for her intelligent playing style and maturity. Radwańska is now increasingly being compared to Martina Hingis.

Success at this level has been rare in Poland in recent decades, except for the achievements of ski jumper Adam Małysz, cross-country skier Justyna Kowalczyk, and perhaps Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica. It came just at the right time after the letdown that was Poland’s performance in Euro 2012. But there is new hope for the national soccer squad too. The Polish Football Association (PZPN) has chosen Waldemar Fornalik, 49, as the new Poland coach, and his team play their first World Cup 2014 qualifier against Montenegro in September. Fornalik is known for leading struggling Polish league clubs to success. Soccer fans, officials and players are hoping he will do the same for the national team. But the task will not be an easy one.
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