© Olek Bortel Photography
I am an always-smiling, freckled, blue-eyed, bleached blonde. Born on January 15, 1988. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I am quite fit and I love sweets.
I was brought up in the woods. My grandfather was a ranger and I used to live with him in his lodge as a young girl. Grandfather used to take my brother and me with him to the woods and taught us how to track game and lure it, as well as identifying trees and mushrooms. We would also pick berries, install feeders and restock them. On these trips, our grandfather encouraged us to race each other. I usually lost because my brother would always block me. He could not accept defeat and so the only way for me to win was if grandfather set up separate tracks for us, though my brother never liked it and took it as an offence. When my grandfather retired, we left the woods and moved to the city.
When I turned seven years old and headed off to primary school, that was when my passion for sports started. And it has lasted for more than twenty years now. Would you like to know how it all began?
My mother signed me up for extracurricular swimming classes. For the first three years it was about learning to swim, and I have to admit that I was quite good at it. After third grade it was time to start thinking about sports seriously and I started to train twice a day with the Akwawit Leszno Team under the supervision of Coach Marek Grelewicz. I was best at 800 meters freestyle. I was always competitive, always first in the water and never late for training sessions, even though they started at 6 AM every morning. I wasn’t the best swimmer in the team, but somehow I always managed to qualify for the national championships. When my swimming progress came to a halt, then it was time to try something different. My choice was track and field.
In second and third grades of secondary school I was training for middle-distance running events with the Krokus Leszno Team. Race after race I beat my personal best, and midway through the racing season I qualified for the Greater Poland State Team and had very good results in the national championships, coming seventh in the 3 km cross country, and eighth in the 3000-meter run.
Running workouts were much easier than the swimming ones and, despite orders from my running coach, Dariusz Perdon, I still went up in the morning to the swimming pool and worked out with my class mates. Unfortunately, a few years out of swimming training made a gap that I could not bridge to be a competitive swimmer once again, but everything happens for a reason. One day I was encouraged to give triathlon a try. Why not? Being a person who likes challenges, it did not take much to convince me to the starting line of my first multisport race.
I remember it as if it was yesterday. It was in Wasosze, the sky was blue and water was warm. I didn’t know anybody and nobody knew me. A girl from nowhere. I finished the swim leg in the middle of pack. Although my cycling training had lasted only one month before the race, I managed to move up the ranks. And then it all came down to the run. I thought that this part of the race would be the easiest, but after the bike my legs felt awkward and my running wasn’t the same. I finished 5th overall and 1st in my age group. You can only imagine how happy I was when I got my trophy and a prize – some bike tires. I couldn’t wait to race again.
Pawel Barszowski became my coach after this race. Actually, I went with him to this race. He showed me what it is all about and he coached me to my titles at the National, European and World Championships, both in duathlon and triathlon. He was the one whose coaching helped me to qualify for the London and Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He was one of the co-founders of the Real 64-sto Triathlon and Cycling Team.
My dream was to race in the Olympics. It came true on August 4, 2012 when I crossed the finish line in London. I will never forget the emotions, excitement, pride, concentration and fun I had during this race. It was one of a kind. Out of 55 of the best female triathletes from all over the world, I managed to place 25th, which happened to be the best result in the history of Polish triathlon at the Olympics. Four years later I was the only Polish triathlete to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and over there I managed to place 22nd. Of course it could have been better, but given how our discipline has developed and how much more competitive the field was, I could be happy that I managed to make some progress from London.
The year after the Olympics has its own rights. We get to race different distances than we normally would and it opened my eyes to something new. Long-distance racing. Now I have new goals, challenges and dreams. Although qualification for the Tokyo Olympics is within my reach, I can’t help but give all my heart to long-distance racing. And the challenge is not an easy one. Racers have to dig deep, swim 3.8 km in the ocean, cycle 180 km over lava fields and run a marathon in 30ºC heat. It’s hard to imagine, but I believe that I have what it takes to overcome.
I have a dream.
Cross the finish line of the Ironman World Championships as the first Polish female professional and fight for the title.
Hello Ironman, I am Agnieszka Jerzyk from Poland.