At home with Hercules
By Peter Andrews
When asked which Polish athlete has a chance at the London Olympics I immediately thought of the shot put champion Tomasz Majewski.
For those who have never seen Tomasz in real life, it can be a bit intimidating. I have always considered myself tall at 192cm (6 feet, 3 inches), but when I first met Tomasz I suddenly felt very small. With a height of 2.4 meters (7 feet 10 inches) and weighing 140 kg (308 pounds), Tomasz is overpowering. He reminded me of Hercules with his long dark hair up in a pony tail. He also has a nice warm smile he puts on easily, so being around him is relaxed and easy right from the first handshake.
I wanted to photograph Tomasz training for the Olympics and he was kind enough to let me just be around him during his daily training and routines. So for the next few weeks I was watching him shot putting, running, jumping, lifting weights and preparing for the biggest sporting event, held every four years. With just one arm he lifted more than I could bench press with all my strength.
I also accompanied him during family moments with his wife Anna and their newly born son Mikolaj. One of the most touching moments was photographing Tomasz holding, with so much care in his huge hands, tiny Mikolaj. The bare torso Hercules was morphing into a gentle giant in front of my eyes.
Tomasz would only agree to this picture after consulting with his wife – another example of a gentle spirit in this massive body that forced me to extend the background I had prepared and brought along for the portrait.
Surprisingly, as a child Tomasz wanted to become a writer and cut sports classes. Then, at the age of 15, he changed and wanted to train in basketball. But his cousin talked him into athletics so he started with the triple jump, moved to discus and only later discovered he really belonged to shot put.
In 2003 he joined Poland’s national team with 20.09 meters in Florence. Two years later he was already among the best in the world and has held this position ever since the 2005 University Games in Izmir. He won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympic games Beijing with 21.51 meters, becoming the first Pole to achieve that since Wladyslaw Komar in 1972.
Photo courtesy of Kai Pfaffenbach