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A gold Olympic medal comes to Lodz. The winner from Tokyo, Kajetan Duszyński, proves that you can accomplish everything in life. He brilliantly combines his passion for sports with conducting research and writing his doctoral dissertation. Sport is for everyone, and what matters most in sport is personal development.  How do you combine sport with science? Which career path to choose during your studies? Why Lodz? We have talked about it with Kajetan Duszyński.

Olympic Games? It’s hard to describe it in words.

How does it feel to be an Olympic athlete?

It’s something else for sure, something different, very rewarding, and very fulfilling. I am proud to represent my country. Going to such events – the Olympic Games, European or World Championships – there is always a sense of pride that you can represent your country. I think that it is the most beautiful thing about it.

What were your expectations at the Olympic Games?

If anyone expected at all that we could win a medal, that’s something amazing.  I remember the headlines we read with the guys after the relay races in Chorzow and the preliminaries. We were very disappointed, people were losing faith. It was said that for the first time in 29 years the relay would not go to the Olympics. We had to believe strongly, to fight for this qualification. In fact, we had to add something from start to start. The end of this story is that within a month we improved the result of the season by 4 seconds. It’s an abstraction, I didn’t know we could achieve something like that. And yes,
I think our relay would have been able to get a medal, but the level was incredibly high and it worked out that way.  We’re really happy about that and it builds us up for the future.

What was your first thought after crossing the finish line?

It’s hard to say because I don’t think too much during the race, it all happens automatically. Suddenly, like a snap of the fingers and a huge explosion of joy from the middle. This feeling, as you can guess, cannot be compared to anything else. I think that is why it is hard to describe in words.
What I remember most is how my team threw themselves at me and their joy infected me. That was the most beautiful and tangible thing about it all.  Because everything else…I think I will mature in retrospect.  It’s impossible to describe it all in one go.

A trip to Japan sounds exotic. Despite the pandemic restrictions, did you have the opportunity to get to know Japan, its culture, or its people?

No, there wasn’t much of an opportunity. We stayed at a camp in Zao Bodaira before the Games and the locals welcomed us there. They prepared an artistic performance, I liked it very much. They performed a song that was to be played at the Games. They rehearsed it six times, but unfortunately, they were not allowed to perform it at the Games. That was probably the essence of that culture. Besides, when we went to Tokyo, we stayed in the Olympic Village all the time and there was no chance to go out anywhere. I see only advantages in that. We did not travel unnecessary, we were able to regenerate and rest. I would definitely be tempted a bit and go sightseeing around the city.

Family atmosphere key to the success of University Sports Association (AZS)

You went to Tokyo as a competitor of the AZS Lodz club.  As many as 15 athletes returned with an Olympic medal, including 8 with a gold medal. What would you point to as the main success factor for AZS athletes?

I think there is a family atmosphere here. I see the greatest strength in my coach, who is most capable of preparing me for the 400m run in this country, at least in my perspective. Every athlete has to look for their own way to succeed and that is the strength and value for me at this club.

Were there other disciplines you wanted to practise?

I remember I wanted to play football, but my mother didn’t want to sign me up to a sports club. I started running in the park by myself, then I went to a sports middle school. There, under the supervision of a coach, I made my first steps, and when I went to university, I moved here [to AZS Lodz – ed].

Measuring lactate is not two digits

You started your studies at the Silesian University of Technology and later transferred to Lodz University of Technology. Why such a change?

I went to university so that I could stay in sport. That was the beginning. I liked my studies very much and discovered a new passion in them. I moved to Lodz because of my coach, without changing my major. Because I also started with biotechnology.

I started working with coach Krzysztof Węglarski in the Polish National Team, I really liked his approach to training. Actually, it was him who convinced me to move here, and I took such steps.

At the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Sciences at Lodz University of Technology you are doing your PhD on protein crystallography. Is your scientific knowledge useful in your career as a sportsman?

I think that any knowledge is useful. Sport is a very interdisciplinary field. It can be approached holistically from many different sides. It doesn’t work together directly, it’s a field of science going into structural biology. We study very small molecules and their structures to understand life from the inside, from very small molecules. For me, it works with sport a little bit because I understand the biochemistry, the exercise physiology better and I can approach training better. That’s what fascinates me about it all – that I can analyse and understand. For me, measuring my lactate after a workout is not just two numbers displayed on a monitor. I realise that there are immobilised enzymes on that strip that properly catalyse those reactions and allow to carry out the reading.

Is it difficult to combine a career as a scientist and an athlete?

I think there is no definite answer to this. In my case, no. I think that the people I met played the biggest role here. And the fact that I like gaining knowledge, learning. For the first two study cycles – BA and master’s studies – that was enough. A doctorate requires a lot more effort. It is not a reproductive activity, like “to learn something”. You have to give a lot of yourself and make some contribution. It clashes a bit with sport, but it is still possible. There are examples of people who finished their doctorates while training at the same time, for example Patrycja Wyciszkiewicz, Rafał Omelko, Michał Pietrzak. As far as I know, these were not areas where they had to be on site – at the university premises. They could study remotely, they didn’t have to do the research that my field requires.

Sport is more than a result

It’s time for Lodz. How do you associate this city? Where in Lodz do you like to spend your time apart from sport and studying?

I’m ashamed to say, I didn’t see much of Lodz. We moved in together with my girlfriend and we try to see the city. We are kind of in love with it, we like it. A lot of friends are surprised by this, but we have found an artistic charm after all. We like this artistic side the most. There is something beautiful and mysterious about it. We like to walk around it.

Lodz will host several thousand athletes next year during the European Universities Games EUG 2022. It will be a great celebration of student athletes from all over Europe. Why do you think it will be important for them to participate in this event?

Of course, it will be important for sportspeople because it sets new goals and allows them to develop. I believe that sport has greater values than simply achieving a particular result. It is above all about motivation and showing hard work. We are biological machines and physical activity is essential for us. This is how evolution has shaped us. I think the EUG 2022 will be an important point for athletes.