Athlete of the Month - March 2015
Poland’s Magdalena Fularczyk is currently Poland’s top female rowing athlete. She first appeared on the international rowing scene in 2002, as a junior athlete. Her boat class of choice has been the women’s double sculls, in which she medalled at junior and under-23 level before scoring success after success at the senior level. She was also part of the crew that won Poland’s first ever World Championship title in a female Olympic boat class in 2009. At the London 2012 Olympic Games she won bronze.
World Rowing caught up with Fularczyk to get to better know this athlete who has been a main figure of the women’s double sculls field in recent years.
World Rowing: How did you discover rowing?
Magdalena Fularczyk: My schoolteacher was a rower. She spotted me in the classroom and urged me to try it out. For a long time, I couldn’t make up my mind. I didn’t even want to practice this discipline, as I thought I would end up looking like a bodybuilderJ. Finally, after two months of trying to persuade me, I went to the local club for a training session, just so my teacher would leave me in peace. And now I have been training for 15 years!
WR: How did you then move on to elite rowing?
MF: After the Olympic Games in Beijing, there was the idea to build up a group of female scullers with coach Martin Witkowski. Initially we were only four girls. From this group, two double sculls were produced through various trials. Our Michalska-Fularczyk combination had a successful debut at the World Rowing Cup and medalled at the World Rowing Championships. This is how my adventure began at the senior level.
WR: You have raced most of your international career in the women’s double. Why this boat in particular?
MF: In Poland, there are not very many girls who practice rowing, so there are not many combination possibilities. Why the double? I think it was the junior coach’s decision and I feel good in this boat. I like the feel of this boat as it moves through the water... Our head coach Gryczuk Bogdan once said I have the ability to adjust to any stroke - maybe there’s something to that.
WR: You were part of the boat that won Poland’s first ever World Champion title in a female Olympic boat class, the double in 2009. What does this mean to you?
MF: It was crazy. I didn’t realise what happened at these championships. It was my senior competition debut, the result came immediately and on home waters. These champs were awesome – friends and family were cheering us at the Poznan, Malta regatta course. During our preparation, Julia and I could have moved mountains.
WR: Historically, Poland won two Olympic medals in female rowing. Once in 1980 in the women’s pair and once in 2012 in the women’s double. You were part of that crew at the London Olympic Games. How would you describe your Olympic experience?
MF: The London Olympics involved a lot of stress but ended up as a happy situation. My success with Julia (Michalska) came out of some pain. Before the Olympics, there was a tragedy in my family. And then I got seriously injured just before the Olympic final, which was to the extent that it could have resulted in my withdrawal from competition. Fortunately, someone was watching over us and allowed our dreams to come true. So despite all of these situations, the London Olympic Games final was the best day of my sporting life.
WR: You rowed with your previous doubles partner Julia Michalska for four years, from 2009 to 2012. How would you describe the partnership that you had?
MF: At the time a lot was going on between us, but we were always ready to go (and do well). With Julia we had different personalities, so it was often very hard between us. In the boat we were united and we both knew what we were up against. It was a time of learning, new experiences and learning about rowing in a professional way. I think it was a great time for both of us. We learnt a lot from each other. We celebrated many smaller and bigger successes.
WR: You first rowed internationally with your current partner Natalia Madaj at the 2008 World Rowing Under 23 Championships where you won bronze in the double. You also won European silver together that year. In 2013, you came back in the same boat and won bronze in the quad at the World Rowing Championships. In 2014 you won World Championship silver in the double together. In your opinion, what are the factors that have allowed your partnership to be successful?
MF: I think that Natalia and I understand each other very well – not just in the boat, but also in other aspects of life. When on training camps we share a room, go together for coffee and talk not only about sport, but about other things. We avoid conflict but from time to time small arguments happen. We are determined and hard-working and need this to make up for our rather short stature J. My bigger experience and Natalia’s craziness produce an “explosive” combination in the boat!
WR: What do you admire about your main competitors in the women’s double sculls?
MF: To me it seems the level rises every year in the women’s double sculls, which is very good because it means greater competition. We are all very well prepared and very determined. I respect all of the girls against whom we compete, but in the next few years we want to show that the Polish women’s double sculls are capable of so much more.
WR: What is the hardest training session that you have ever done?
MF: I’m more of an endurance athlete than a sprinter, and so I find dynamic speed training difficult. Just before the World Rowing Championships we had to do 12x1 minute interval speed training on the ergometer. It sounds like nothing, but training on the ergometer with small resistance and maximum rate and power is like murder for me.
WR: What is the current situation of women’s rowing in Poland?
MF: The current situation of women’s rowing in Poland is really good. We have a group of a dozen girls that work well. Seniors and juniors train together and compete against one another, which helps raise the level and produce good results during the season. Our coaches look for new training solutions that we have steadily been working on. Within the space of a few years our group of women rowers has managed to build up and achieve good results at major events.
WR: How is rowing generally perceived in Poland?
MF: Rowing in Poland is not very popular. Despite the successes we achieved we are a niche sport that is only noticed at larger events (like the Olympics or World Championships). We also generate some interest among young people who simply want to enjoy the sport. Numerous events are organised to promote rowing competitions, but we cannot equal athletics or volleyball.
WR: What is a typical day like for you at the moment?
MF: At the moment I am on a training camp preparing for the season. We are now in Portugal, rowing for the first time this year. Each day is very similar with a short warm-up followed by breakfast. Then usually we have our first main training on the water, lunch and rest. Our second training is in the gym, either cycling or on the ergometer – it all depends on the coach. In the evenings it’s time alone, wellness or talks with the family. I also like to relax with a good book.
WR: What do you do outside of rowing (hobbies/studies/profession)?
MF: Besides rowing I really like sailing. When time allows my husband and I go to the Polish Masuria (Lake District). I also try and reconcile sport with studies. Currently I am studying sports management. In my free time I enjoy normal life at home – I love cooking.
WR: What are your next goals in rowing?
MF: My goal is the Olympic Games in Rio. I would like to go there and at least repeat the London result – it would be nice to even improve it. J That way Natalia and I can establish a winning streak for our rowing club, LOTTO Bydgostia, and come back home from the Olympic Games with something around our necks.
WR: How do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
MF: In ten years I would still like to be involved in sports, but from the other side as a coach or in sports marketing. I have been involved too many years in the sport to retire from it completely. Hopefully I will have taken the time to meet with friends and fulfill dreams that are not connected with sport.