Immigrant’s son wins big in fencing

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Not many Norwegians had heard of Bartosz Piasecki until he instantly became a national hero on Wednesday. After a day of otherwise disappointing results by athletes expected to do well at the Olympics in London, Piasecki restored some honour for his adopted homeland by winning the silver medal in fencing.

Norway's Bartosz Piasecki (left) with gold medal winner Ruben Limardo of Venezuela and bronze medal winner Jinsun Jung of Republic of Korea. PHOTO: London 2012

None of Norway’s favoured athletes has performed as expected during the Olympics in London so far, and Piasecki’s medal was only the country’s second after five days of competition. He seemingly came out of nowhere to command full media attention at home and even delay Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK’) nightly national newscast by nearly a half-hour as he made his way into the final fencing match against world champion Ruben Limardo of Venezuela.

His semi-final victory secured him the bronze medal and Piasecki, a 25-year-old math teacher in Oslo who’d by then fended off two Frenchmen, a Hungarian and a South Korean, was clearly thrilled. “This is just indescribable,” Piasecki, repeating the adjective he used after advancing earlier in the day. His father was also thrilled and proud, not least since he’s his son’s coach.

It’s because of his father Mariusz that Piasecki emigrated to Norway as a toddler and grew up in a land where many, including national athletics boss Børre Rognlien, admitted they’ve had to learn how to pronounce his name. Piasecki was born in Tczew, Poland but his dad, a former Olympic fencer himself, was offered a job as coach for Norway’s national fencing team. He took the job back in the late 1980s and moved the family to Oslo.

“I had an offer from France, too,” the proud papa told reporters after his son’s victory, saying it was “coincidental” that he landed in Norway. “After 25 years, I’m staying.”

Both Bartosz and his sister Carolina took up their father’s sport and she won the Norwegian championship earlier this summer, reported newspaper Aftenposten. Now both siblings have impressive titles and the elder, a Norwegian champ himself, now has his eyes on Olympic gold. He was ranked 47th in the world before the Olympics began and shot up like a rocket on Wednesday.

He said everything just felt great for him in London, as his fancy footwork and timely attacks defeated one international fencing star after another. Commentators seemed overwhelmed by his performance, not least since Norway has a small fencing milieu with only around 650 active participants.

Fans quickly started calling Piasecki “Zorro,” but he has other pursuits as well, including his teaching job at Wang Toppidrett in Oslo and work on a master’s degree in computer sciences. He has no sponsors, so needs ordinary sources of income.

“Maybe this medal will help a bit,” he told Aftenposten. “I hope it will at least mean we get more attention in the future.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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