“I’ve been destroying my body for years.” The great star of Polish sports has died

  • He paid a high price for his sports dreams. – I have been destroying my body and head for years. I tortured myself with training, and then I fell on my face. Sometimes no one said it was worth stopping. I hurt myself a lot – in 2020, he said.
  • He had to fight the most important thing in his life. The cancer stopped in the way of the great Polish athlete. He struggled with it for five years and in 2020 remained in a wheelchair
  • Erwina Ryś-Ferens was one of the best Polish skaters in history. He had championship medals and places on the podium at the World Cup. However, he did not realize his dream of winning an Olympic medal
  • Erwina Ryś-Ferens died on April 20, 2022.
  • You can find more such stories on the main page of Onet.pl.

– It all started in 2017. I had a breast tumor. Bone metastases went from there. I am physically fit, but my legs are lame. I have been confined to a wheelchair since April, he said in an interview with Przegląd Sportowy Onet in August 2020. The fight on the ice turned into a fight in the female doctor’s office. His family started raising money online for treatment and has continued to this day. Ryś-Ferens required day and night care. So she hired a babysitter, but the cost of such services was very high.

– Almost all pension expenses. I do things that I will not give up, but the money is running out, and after all, specialist equipment is very expensive – said our master, who lives with his daughter.

What was the most difficult thing for him? – I can’t walk. Proper diagnosis and good doctors are key. My legs suddenly failed and I still don’t know why. The oncologist says it’s a tumor, but I still have polyneuropathy and my nerves are damaged. I am looking for alternatives and other doctors so as not to limit myself to one direction, he said after more than three years of fighting the disease.

He admitted that he realized that he did not spare his body. – I have even tortured my body for years. Including legs that no longer work. Once upon a time there was no consciousness like today. I thought that the more I trained, the more successful I would be. I did not stop. Exercise, food, sleep: this was my world. Sometimes no one said it was worth stopping. On the contrary, the coaches encouraged me to work harder. I heard a scream as I slowed down for a moment. After training, I fell on my face from fatigue. And then relax, sauna, massage and return to work. The red light never came on for me. Only now do I see what I took. The body finally rebelled. I feel sorry for myself, years later I started to apologize to my body – he added.

Erwina Ryś-Ferens on track – Mieczysław Świderski / newspix.pl

Ryś-Ferens also paid a high price mentally. – In the reality of the Polish People’s Republic, I wanted to give people a little more joy. I felt a responsibility both to myself and to them. He was sick, he was kind of hurting himself. I could not sleep because of my nerves before the important competitions. I just thought that I could not fail because I represented Poland. It hardened me. Something terrible. I felt lonely and a heavy burden on my shoulders. No one in my room could visit me. I knew that the pressure was destroying me, but I couldn’t fight it. When I asked a psychologist at the Polish Olympic Committee for help, I heard that I was mentally ill. He told Przegląd Sportowy Onet that such support is now the norm.

He competed in four Olympic Games: Innsbruck (1976), Lake Placid (1980), Sarajevo (1984) and Calgary (1988), but staying in the sport did not attract him and he had a coaching qualification. – I was tired of sitting on suitcases. I wanted to enjoy my home and a normal life. I was very busy traveling, he said.

He was just tired of sports. He has been competing at a very high level for more than 20 years. – I was full. And it wasn’t good, because at the end of my career you had to be active, and I just didn’t want to. For many years, I have been doing the same thing over and over again: sleeping, eating, and exercising. Over and over again. How much could you do? After all, I was not a car, he admitted.

After a sports career, he decided to get involved in politics. – A friend convinced me. As a rule, athletes do not want to deal with this topic, but I have done myself on this topic. I could do something concrete in the local government. I was also included in the list of deputies, but I was not interested in it anymore – he explained that sports experience is not useful for him in his new position. – These are completely different worlds. In sports, everything is at your disposal, you give what you have, and that’s it. It is impossible to be involved in politics, you have to unite, mediate, agree, ”he explained.

Erwina Ryś-Ferens with her husband and coach KrzysztofErwina Ryś-Ferens with her husband and coach Krzysztof – Mieczysław Świderski / newspix.pl

Ryś-Ferens won three medals at the World Championships – all-around (1988) and sprint all-around (1978 and 1985), as well as a whole bag of small medals (for individual competitions – editorial note). In the past, he was also a medalist at the World Youth Championship. He has been on the podium at the World Cup seven times. After the last games in Calgary. He then won the 3,000m race in Heerenveen, finishing second in the 1,500m and third in the 1,000m. This only confirmed that he was alive at the Olympics. Meanwhile, the best place there was the fifth place in 3000 m. In fact, the same position was in Sarajevo (1500 m) and Lake Placid (3000 m). He has never won an Olympic medal.

– I was unlucky, but in the meantime, except for work and talent in my life. happiness is still important. Some people will get a start and have Olympic medals, while others work hard and go, he said. – I was in a good mood in Innsbruck, but one activist thought that we should go down the mountains and move to the Olympic Village. I fell out of rhythm. At Lake Placid, I felt like a prisoner. There were armed soldiers everywhere. There was no one to talk to. I was dressed very thin for the competition itself and was very cold. It was snowing heavily in Sarajevo. I didn’t have a chance with competitors competing in better weather, he recalled.

He repeatedly came close to the medal. He fought so hard for him that he put everything on a card before the Calgary Games. He created a team of people who would help him succeed. And for your own money. It didn’t work at 1500 and 3000 m, so it felt best in the events. At 5,000 m, no one expected success. In addition, the Polish woman was walking alone. Nevertheless, all of a sudden he smelled the medal. Meanwhile, he noted that he has a chance to rise to the podium. A few hundred meters before the finish line, he fell. – This stumbling block made no sense. I still jumped with all my might and reached the finish line. Some force majeure was affected. Instead of quietly preparing for the medal ceremony, the girls gritted their teeth and looked at what I was doing on the ice, Ryś-Ferens recalled. – Just think instead of joy. Alpine coach Andrzej Kozak brought me vodka. True, I did not drink every day, but he knew that only this could help me – he cheated in an interview with Jakub Wojczynski.

An Olympic team was in Jerusalem with Jerzy Dominik, one of the best Polish sprinters at the time. – I was 23 then. Ervina was our mentor at the time. He helped us enter the world of skating. He never spared himself in training. He did his best. He ruled among the girls and dragged the whole group. He was a decisive leader – he recalled.

Ryś-Ferens began his sports adventure … with gymnastics. He did not like ice skating. – Panche was trained by my older brother, who is ten years older than him, and I always said: Oh God, how tired he is, he laughed. – But I loved movement and would not go to any sport, it would be good, because I had a good motor intellect. I had a stadium by my window, and since there was not enough space in the gym, I went out on the ice to have fun. So I stayed on it for a very long time, ”he said.

He stressed that there are good conditions for today’s athletes to do sports. In addition, they can use the help of experts. “Then when I raced it was a sugar cube and a bicycle,” he laughed.

Since talking about cycling, in 1988 he had the idea to participate in the Summer Olympics in cycling. And this was not a stupid idea. I was in good shape because cycling is our main training tool. But it turned out that I did not have a bicycle, and one of the activists said that the baby was for a potty, not a bicycle. So my dreams were shattered – he admitted.

When asked where he kept all the cups and whether they were found on the most visible shelf, he replied bitterly. – They were buried in a drawer. What do I need these medals for now?

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