Agnieszka Skrzypulec for Interia: “We even won against men”

Olympic runner-up along with Jolanta Ogar in class 470, it returns to the extremely stressful confusion during the Olympic regatta, when the Polish women, after the protest of the French women, were not at all sure whether they would stand on the podium. It tells about whether it is recognizable after this great success. A graduate of the Faculty of Civil Engineering of the West Pomeranian University of Technology, Civil Engineer, she also says, which gives her engineering knowledge in a sport like sailing.

Olgierd Kwiatkowski, Interia: What does a sailor do in winter? Does he have time to rest, celebrate?

Agnieszka Skrzypulec, Olympic silver medalist from Tokyo in class 470 together with Jolanta Ogar: Due to the fact that I got injured after returning from the Olympics, for the first time in a long time, or maybe for the first time actively, I participated in the preparations for Christmas. This year I was at home. Normally for sailors, November and December are the months when they return to the water. Usually, we train in the south of Europe and we go home only on Christmas Eve.

What is this injury?

– I ripped a tendon in my thumb. I had to undergo hand surgery. The tendon had to be reconstructed. I am undergoing rehabilitation. I hope that in March I will be able to start training on the water.

What is your most important goal for the upcoming season?

– There is a big challenge ahead of me and Jola. We have to change the boat. The first test will be European Championship in early July and later World Cupwhich will be the first Olympic qualification. We don’t want to make big, ambitious plans. The first year in the new competition is learning the technique and mastering the equipment. We will definitely want to approach the starts calmly, and only in the next year start the fight for qualifications.

Why did you decide to change the boat?

– In the program of the Olympic Games, class 470, in which we won the medal, remains, but only as a competition for mixtures. Staying in this class would mean breaking up our duo and creating a new crew with much younger partners. We found that we would rather stay together and learn a new boat than create two separate crews and compete with each other.

And you chose …

– 49er FX class. At the moment, it is the only Olympic class for female crews, which is an obvious choice for us. It differs from the 470 in that it is a little faster. There is a lot of learning ahead of me. I will have to learn new technical skills, how to jump from side to side, get into the trapeze and jump behind the boat. I hope Jola will help me with this.

Physical requirements have also increased?

– The 49er class is more difficult for the crew because he has to pull the ropes more. In class 470, these roles were split in half and half. However, in class 470, the sailing technique was so advanced that it was possible to observe how the crewman, while hanging on his hands, had to rock the boat with his whole body to make it go faster. It is also very physically demanding.

Do you like the changes to the Olympic program?

– In many sports there are mixed competitions – in athletics, swimming. Sailing also goes this way. It is difficult for sailors. We as a crew are connected with each other. We cannot train separately in different clubs and only pair up with each other at the time of the start. We have to train the crew we are starting all the time, because we have to be perfectly in tune. We form one organism.

In addition, mixed swimming creates logistical problems. So far, Jola and I could easily share a room, sometimes for economic reasons, we had to sleep in one big bed. In the case of mixes, I cannot imagine such a situation. This is difficult for us as sailors and for partners who stay at home. Suddenly it would turn out that we spend more time with the crew member than with our life partner. These are real life problems. I’m not for that. I liked the formula in class 470 that there was one boat in which both men and women could swim. And we could actually compete with each other. We raced with men in training and that was cool. We were able to raise our level. There were also no logistical problems mentioned above.

Have you ever won against men?

– We often had such races during training. Women have the best chance in lighter winds, but we do before the Olympics, we had such a form that we won with men, and later with Olympic medalists in strong winds. It gives a lot of satisfaction.

You won the medal at the Olympics with great adventures. Was there even a fear that you would lose him? How did it look from your perspective?

– After crossing the finish line of the medal race, we were full of euphoria. We were happy with the medal we won. The points indicated that we would jump over the French and we would have a silver medal. On our way back to the port, we celebrated our joy. We saw our crew in the port waving flags and already celebrating. At that moment, the jury’s motorboat approached us. We got information from them that we should not go anywherebecause we have a protest on the shore. And that’s it. They left.

Are you very nervous?

We looked at ourselves with the question, what have we done? After all, we have completed all the formalities. At the right time, we were at the boat, at the right time, we downloaded the GPS, and we walked through the media zone as needed. We went ashore and instead of celebrating I asked my team, the president, what next? Do I have a silver or bronze medal, or do I not have a medal at all? In the meantime, you had to smile at the photos, because no one on the shore knew what was going on. The whole situation took away the greatest joy from us, moments that will not be experienced a second time. Instead of joy, we experienced stress. The crew members pulled out their phones and looked for information about the protest. Finally, the information appeared that this is a protest of the French women against the British women about “team racing”. We had no idea what it was about.

I just remembered that when we were on the shore, we wanted to congratulate the British who won the gold, but they started pushing us away and I saw that they were flooded with tears. These were not tears of joy. We found out later what was going on. We felt deceived, wrongly accused of getting along with the British.

The situation was all the more strange as the French were your sparring partners during the preparations for the Olympics.

– So if anyone could accuse us of anything, it was that we could communicate with the French, not the British.

When exactly did you know you had a medal?

– The protest was considered behind closed doors. I had to wait outside the door. There were French and British women in the room. The judges analyzed the video and recordings from our microphones. After half an hour, the judge came out and announced that he did not see our malicious intent. The protest was lifted, we could be happy. But it wasn’t the same joy anymore.

Does this happen often in sailing?

– Very rarely. The medal race is judged very carefully, it is watched by eight judges, and there are four motorboats on the route. All this to catch any violation of the rules as soon as possible and to know immediately what the order is at the finish line. Should the judges discover that the regatta was not being played in a fair play spirit, they should make a decision on the water, immediately.

Are you still friends with French women?

After a week, they wrote a message that they congratulate us on the medal and accept the verdict, and at the next regatta we will go to dinner. These emotions were unnecessary, the distaste remained, but the case is behind us.

What does this Olympic medal mean to you?

– A beautiful culmination of a long and sometimes difficult history. Each of us gives our best, has to overcome many obstacles, but no one can guarantee that his effort and hard work will be rewarded. I am very glad that I am one of those people who have collected the fruits of hard work, that with Jola we have hit perfectly with the form. We were mentally well prepared for the Olympics and we could use our skills one hundred percent.

What were these difficult stories?

Several times I thought it would be the end of my career. I didn’t have views to swim with another crew member. In the last year before the Olympics, I had an injury and did not know if I would get back into shape. At the Olympics, however, everything was in order. These were the first games in which I enjoyed the very start. I was stressed out because this is a party that always causes stress, but I had a lot more fun than in London and Rio de Janeiro.

What gives you this success in Tokyo in your daily life now?

– My life hasn’t changed much. Apart from the fact that you hear about sailing every four years, during the Olympics, we are overshadowed on the water. We have baseball caps, glasses, fans don’t know what our faces look like. I encounter situations in which only when I introduce myself by name, someone will think that I am an Olympic medalist. Rather, I remained anonymous.

You are a civil engineer by education. What does this knowledge give you in sailing?

– Ease of imagining how the boat works, and what forces act on the equipment, which makes it easier for me to trim the sails later (shaping the sails – ed.). For example, we had a training series on the effects of sea currents on boat speed. Just because there is a sea current, the strength of the wind changes on the sail. It is easy for me to understand it all, to imagine it, because in engineering studies, vector operation is our daily bread.

I also had knowledge about the strength of materials. I often told the trainer to what distance holes in the mast should be drilled so that the material would not weaken and break. We have also developed a repeatable mast measurement system and I was helped by lecturers from my university West Pomeranian University of Technology in Szczecin.

And do you think about using this knowledge in life, after the end of your career?

– I chose this direction to have a plan B. On the one hand, I devoted myself to sport, and on the other, I knew that this career cannot last forever, that nothing can guarantee that I will end it with an Olympic medal. I wanted a profession. I am still looking for this path in life because I am not giving up my arms. We will continue sailing with Jola, but the career end time is fast approaching. I am starting to think about what to do in my life, whether to go towards construction, or combine my previous experience, knowledge and analytical skills to build boats. But for now, the Paris Olympics are a challenge.

Interviewed by Olgierd Kwiatkowski


About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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