25 thousand fans in the Silesian Stadium witnessed the greatest athletics show of the year in Poland. The biggest attraction of the 2023 edition of the Silesia Kamila Skolimowska Memorial, a Diamond League meeting, was Natalia Kaczmarek’s phenomenal 400 metre race. - I love the stadium, I love the crowd. Thank you! - one of the stars of the day said after her run. She was not the only one, however. Ewa Swoboda ran like a rocket and Jakob Ingebrigtsen set a European record! In total, four world-leading marks were set.
If there was any doubt as to whether Polish fans still wanted to watch athletics, it was answered decisively on Sunday in the Silesian Stadium. 25 thousand fans purchased tickets to spend four hours watching the show that took the Silesia Kamila Skolimowska Memorial to yet another level. That level is the Diamond League - the most prestigious series of meetings in the sport, where every event is expected to generate performances of the highest level.
The ultimate goal, the eagerly awaited return of the Silesian Stadium to the current world-record list, was not achieved. But amidst all the excitement of the day, hardly anyone seemed to mind.
Diamond League - both global and Polish. Kaczmarek and Swoboda become heroes of the day
– This is the greatest athletics meeting in the world. The memories stay with you for years - Natalia Kaczmarek said shortly after her sensational run.
As the Olympic champion from Tokyo was entering the finishing straight, no one in the stands remained in their seats. The stadium announcer was no longer audible. The applause got louder still after she reached the finish, not just scoring a win, but achieving a time of 49.48. It was the fastest performance of Kaczmarek’s career. Even the great Irena Szewińska never ran as fast in Poland, and her national record is only 0.2 seconds faster. Justyna Święty-Ersetic, watching the race from the stands, was speechless. All that her tired teammate was able to say after the race was: - I finally ran the race I had dreamed of. And the season is only just entering the key phase.
It was also a day to remember for Ewa Swoboda.
– I can’t believe this. It is not happening. I was afraid to turn towards the clock and when it displayed 10.94, I thought “what?!” - the Polish 100 metres specialist nearly shouted while talking to the journalists. A little later, she was already in the stands. She posed for dozens of photos, as every fan wanted a souvenir of the moment when Ewa broke the 11-second barrier for the first time in career. The moment in which she missed the national record by a mere 0.01.
Even if the Polish fans could have hoped for good results from the local stars, the spectacular achievements of these two exceed expectations.
Five world record holders and more records than one could keep track of
With the loaded programme and fields at the event, the Polish women’s results were only a part of the show. In the men’s 400 metres, they were matched by Wayde van Niekerk. He ran it in 44.08 - a new meeting record and the second-best performance in the world this year. It was also a new Polish all-comers record. These words were uttered on Sunday countless times. That should come as no surprise, as the Witches’ Cauldron hosted five world record holders - besides van Niekerk, the group included Yulimar Rojas, Ryan Crouser, Tobi Amusan and Armand Duplantis.
None of them disappointed. Amusan equalled the meeting record at 100 metres hurdles with 12.34. Crouser sent the shot to 22.55 and regretted a fouled attempt in which he reached beyond 23 metres. He felt capable of doing more. Rojas, whose appearance was the subject of last-minute negotiations with the organisers, won the competition with the support of the audience, flying out to 15.18. No one in the world has bettered the mark this year and afterwards she had one sentence to say to the fans: - you are impossible.
It was Duplantis who was predicted to be the king of the day. But, despite bringing his longest poles (5.25m) to Poland for the first time, he ended the competition with a mark of 6.01.
– I said I had some unfinished business in Silesia after last year. I am now postponing it. I will settle the score with the venue - the flying Swede stated, even if the height he achieved was still incredible. It is only a matter of everyone getting used to his exploits that more is expected of the 23-year old.
Jakob Ingebrigtsen planned a European record. And he sticks to plans
Sunday’s highlights in the Silesian Stadium were not limited to the world record holders’ appearances. Jakob Ingebrigtsen is not one yet. But, step by step, the great Norwegian is getting closer. On Sunday, after a solitary finish, he broke the European record yet again with 3:27.14. He was helped by three pacemakers and his race was watched in the stadium by his family.
– I am happy to make my plan a reality. I had dreamt of this day. World record? Let’s take things slow, step by step - the Olympic champion stated.
The time was naturally a new meeting record. The plaques had to be presented in nearly every event. Nine times, to be precise. The stars attacked the record list en masse. The 67.04 by Haruka Kitaguchi in the javelin throw was also a world-leading performance and Japanese record. In the women’s high jump, three athletes achieved a new meeting record mark of 1.98 - Iryna Gerashchenko, Yulia Levchenko and Nicola Olyslagers. The 2.36 cleared by Mutas Essa Barshim in the men’s competition not only made history for the meeting, but gave him the world lead. The king of the high jump came back into shape in Poland, the country where he claims to have done half of all the training he has completed during his career.
His jumps might be the norm. A complete surprise was the finish of Hirut Meshesha in the 1500 metres. The Ethiopian achieved a time of 3:54.88. The performance was a sensational one, putting her third in the world this year. Definitely worthy of respect, even if Faith Kipyegon’s recent world record has changed the perspective in her event. Another meeting record was achieved at 3000 metres by Freweni Hailu with 8:26.61. The feat was matched by Soufiane El Bakkali in the 3000 metres steeplechase with 8:03.16, although the Moroccan himself admitted he had expected more. Possibly even a counteroffensive in the race for the world record.
– It was not to be, with a temperature of 33 degrees more could not have been done. But the season is not over and the win in the Silesian Stadium, coming back here after two years, is something to celebrate. It is no exaggeration when I say it is a special place - the runner said.
Polish place in the world. Local athletes competed at the “Kama” with varied success
– The Memorial is not just about global stars. We should appreciate the fact of top Polish athletes competing and being successful here. That has always been and will continue to be the case - said Piotr Małachowski, sports director of the Skolimowska Memorial.
The exploits of Kaczmarek and Swoboda were very special. But one should not overlook Pia Skrzyszowska, who took her season’s best to 12.67. The time gave her an Olympic qualification for Paris. Norbert Kobielski has also confirmed his shape with a high jump clearance of 2.27. Sofia Ennaoui pleased the fans with her return to the track and 1:59.82 in the 800 metres.
The Polish athletes had mixed fortunes on the day in the elite fields.
I know I am capable of more. I wanted to give it 101 per cent at this event. But that is how sports are. You do not always get what you want - stated Piotr Lisek, after clearing 5.71 and placing fourth in the pole vault.
Karol Zalewski was timed in 45.87 in the one-lap race. Damian Czykier finished the 110 metres hurdles in 13.65 before completing the second part of his Sunday plan - taking care of his daughter. He may be excused, especially as he is battling health issues. Regretfully, Michał Haratyk failed to record a valid attempt in the shot put.
It was a bittersweet hammer throw competition for the Poles. Both Malwina Kopron (68.73) and Paweł Fajdek (73.93) did not have the best of days. Wojciech Nowicki, however, shone with the only 80-metre throw of the day, exceeding the barrier by two centimetres.
– We are focusing on stabilising the technique. It was very hot today, but if I can throw 80 metres off hard training, I am optimistic ahead of the World Championships. This was a big test. And I think I passed it - the Olympic champion said.
Diamond League to stay in Poland for a minimum of five years. “This is an investment”
– Looking ahead to an event of this caliber, all of us on the organising team had doubts. Now that it is over, I can say it with full conviction: I am delighted with what we were able to achieve. We, meaning Silesia. We, meaning Poland. By organising the Kamila Memorial, we are proving our country respects athletes and loves sports. We appreciate our heroes and are able to support them. My hope is that at least one child who was in the stadium with us on Sunday will come back here one day as an athlete and a star of the national team. That is a long-term goal we would like to achieve - Małachowski stated.
The Silesian Stadium and the Silesia Kamila Skolimowska Memorial have become a full-time member of the Diamond League. The contract is valid for a minimum period of five years.
– That gives us enough time to continue our development. We feel there are still certain areas where we fall short of perfection. The goal is to get closer to it - said Marek Plawgo, communications director of the meeting. He added that the organisers of the “Kama” have the trust of the athletes. - We talk to our guests. They say: keep it up, invite me back again! There is nothing better for the people who leave all their hearts in the stadium - the former hurdler said.
– The Silesian Stadium is our home. It is great to see it become the home of global athletics for a day - stated Swoboda, a Silesia native.
The main partner of the Silesia Kamila Skolimowska Memorial is the Silesian voivodeship.
The event was financed from the part of the state budget at the disposal of the Minister of Sports and Tourism. It was also co-financed by the State Fund for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled.