Feature15 Feb 2017

Jozwik on her 2017 success: ‘Things are moving in a good direction’


Joanna Jozwik on her way to winning the 800m at the IAAF World Indoor Tour Meeting in Torun (© Jean-Pierre Durand)

Things are going well at the moment for Poland’s rising 800m star Joanna Jozwik. Just ask her.

“Everything is fine now, things are moving in a good direction,” the 26-year-old said, smiling widely and speaking just a few hours after a 1:59.29 national indoor record that sent the capacity crowd of 5,200 at Torun Arena into a frenzy at last Friday’s Copernicus Cup. It was Jozwik’s third victory in as many 2017 IAAF World Indoor Tour races, and her second world-leading run.

“The race was great, I felt very easy, my stride was very elastic. My shape really was perfect today. It's now two weeks after our training camp in South Africa, which is the best time to compete.”

Opening with a 2:00.91 world lead in Dusseldorf, she improved by more than a second in the intervening nine days to take down the national indoor record set by Lidia Chojecka 18 years earlier – when Jozwik was just eight. Her journey wouldn’t even begin until six years later when she took up athletics at 14, first as a 400m runner before being convinced that her chief attribute, speed endurance, would serve her better if she moved up in distance.

Promise as a junior

She was a 2:07 runner by the time she turned 18, and in 2010 was good enough to make the national team heading to the IAAF World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada, where she improved to 2:05.09 in the semifinals. In 2011, she lowered her lifetime best to 2:03.15 in her first year in the senior ranks, with her next major leap to follow in 2014.

Entering that year with a 2:02.39 best, she improved in 2:01.98 in late May in her first outdoor race, won her first senior outdoor title two months later, and dipped under two minutes for the first time in the European Championships final where she clocked 1:59.63 to take a surprise bronze.

She came frustratingly close to the two-minute barrier indoors the following February, clocking 2:00.01 at the inaugural Copernicus Cup in Torun. Later that summer, a 1:58.35 PB in the semifinals in Beijing propelled Jozwik to her first World Championships final, where she finished seventh.

Injuries hinder start to 2016

But the Olympic season didn’t begin well. Hobbled by a knee injury and nagging calf problems, she missed more than six weeks of training in late spring. That lack of base conditioning showed at the European Championships where she finished a distant sixth in 2:00.57.

“It was hard to be ready for Europeans,” she said. “I was really disappointed.”

But given the hole in her training, her performance in Amsterdam was promising. She still had five weeks to regroup before her Olympic appearance, and she took full advantage to arrive in Rio ready.

After a comfortable victory in her opening round heat, she clocked a season's best of 1:58.93 to win her semifinal. She went faster still in the final, knocking nearly a full second from her lifetime best with a 1:57.37 run to finish a notable fifth.

“It was amazing,” she said. “I’d never finished so high in a championship. And my result, 1:57, my first time under 1:58, it really was amazing. And now I’m continuing from there.”

Rio signals major turning point

Indeed, Rio marked a major career turning point, foremost in her outlook and confidence.

Since Rio and through the indoor season, she said, “Something has changed in my head. I think I learned how to run really well, and with good tactics. And I learned how to win. It’s not easy.”

Originally from near Rzeszow in Poland's southeast corner, Jozwik relocated to Warsaw five years ago to become fully ensconced in the life of a full-time athlete. That mainly means working out and recovering; when time allows, she’s slowly – very slowly – working her way towards a degree in physical education.

When she’s not training, eating or sleeping, she’s busy engaging with her fans on social media. She has more than 54,000 followers on Instagram and 91,000-plus on Facebook.

“I really like communicating with them,” she said. “They write to me to say that I inspire them, which makes me happy. I give them energy and they give it to me.”

Birmingham to serve as 2017 indoor finale

Next up for Jozwik is Saturday’s Müller Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham where she hopes to cap her indoor campaign with a fourth World Indoor Tour victory and maintain her unbeaten streak this winter. She won’t be at the European Indoor Championships next month, choosing instead to take that week off before departing for a training camp in Brazil on 7 March.

“It’s something new for me, and I think for runners in general,” she said, seemingly amused by the prospect of a training camp in what isn’t considered a conventional spot. “I don’t think anyone will be there except my team.”

She’s not making any predictions for Birmingham, saying that she’s only hoping to maintain her recent consistency and improved race sharpness. She’ll also arrive pressure-free having already sealed the tour victory in her event.

“I don’t have to win, but of course I would like to,” she said. “I would really like to repeat a good result like in Torun. My goal for the indoor season was to compete in four races, to run them very well – with good tactics and good results.

“So far I’ve done it.”

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF