Meet the Young Leaders: Katarzyna Wita

Katarzyna Wita

As part of our ongoing series, we have interviewed members of the European Athletics Young Leaders Youth Team. They were all nominated by their federations to take part in the most recent Young Leaders Forum in Amsterdam, held in conjunction with the 2016 European Athletics Championships, and are all recognised as potential leaders of our sport in years to come.

The European Athletics Young Leaders Community is a platform for active young and ambitious people who are interested in developing work and life skills, getting involved in community service and making new friends.   

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Probably the shortest sentence I can describe myself is that I'm busy: either I'm going to a competition or I'm coming back from competition. You can say that I'm addicted to sport. I am a lawyer and I specialise in sports law as well as security in mass events. I work in the athletics federation in Poland and mostly I’m focused in the competition department. I'm also a sports judge.

I also love to read books, so every free moment on public transport I use to read another book. After a hard day, I like to go jogging. It helps me to relax and stay all by myself. And now I'm going to surprise you: I do not eat sweets, it’s just I do not like them. But I love meat and vegetables. Good salad with grilled chicken and a match on the television (no, no television series, again sport!) is a recipe for a great evening!

How did you become involved with the European Athletics Young Leaders Community?

From my earliest years, I have always been interested in sports; I can say that I was born in an athletics stadium. I got into the Young Leaders Community thanks to Polish Athletics Association. They appreciated my commitment when I worked as a volunteer at athletics events many times. I remember the day when I received a call from the federation that I had been chosen as the Polish representative. It was definitely my day!

What is your favourite thing about athletics?

Multiculturalism. The coolest thing about athletics is there are so many athletes in one place. These are not just two teams - as in the case of team games - but several hundred and sometimes even nearly 1,500 athletes. The coolest are the international events where representatives of dozens of countries meet for the same purpose: to compete!

Who is your athletics hero and why?

Definitely Usain Bolt. He attracts people to the stadiums, and this is currently the most difficult task for event organisers. He can show the beautiful, magical face of athletics. He shows the beauty of this sport as well as the hard work required to achieve his goals. Thanks to him, I have an affinity for the Zlata Tretra meeting in Ostrava in the Czech Republic.

Which areas of the sport are you particularly interested in?

I think the organisation of sporting events is what interests me the most, especially the part about competition, anti-doping and medicine. It is an opportunity for me to combine my passion with education. Passion is sports and athletics and I am a lawyer. Being a sports judge helps me as well. I am also strongly interested in the problem of doping in sport - both from ethical issues and strictly legal matters.

I remember one of the European Athletics site investigators Aditya Kumar asked me if I was going to be a defense attorney if I was caught up in doping during the competition. I remember that I did not give a clear answer. Each case must be considered individually.

If you could change one aspect of the sport, what would you change and why?

I will tell you what I would like to change in sport in Poland. In Poland, a pattern was formed: first the medal in a particular discipline, then the venue or foundation. For example, we won a speed skating medal - so a training circuit was build. Adam Malysz appeared in ski jumping and then there were donations for training, venues etc. We only get the infrastructure when there are international medals. Poland needs an impulse. Why not the other way round? Let's build a strong training base so that future medallists have a place to train.

Although this situation is also a plus - thanks to Adam Malysz who promoted ski jumping, we now have a strong Polish team of ski jumpers and we are the world champions in the team competition. For the first time in history!

Where do you see yourself within the sport in ten years’ time?

As part of the Local Organising Committee at an Olympic Games. It would be amazing!

What has been your highlight of Young Leaders so far?

Hmm, I do not know if it will be something unusual. I remember the evening at the 2014 Forum in Zurich. I was supporting Tomasz Majewski in the shot put. I forgot the Polish flag. I managed to find one in the stands, little thought surprised an athlete and I gave up his flag. At the end of competition I wanted to give it back but the sprinter was gone.

On the way to the hotel I was carrying a flag on myself and unexpectedly in the very centre of Zurich, I heard a Polish voice. He was one of our journalists and came to me to see the national colours. I was more than surprised by such a pleasant surprise. I returned to Poland with the “stolen” flag. I managed to meet the owner only at the competition in Warsaw, but he allowed me to take the flag with me. I still have this special flag with me today and it is a precious reminder of my first Young Leaders Forum. I took this flag with me again to Amsterdam in 2016.

I am still in contact with this famous journalist who surprised me on the street and we still meet at every major athletics event - all thanks to this one flag.