Meet "Gralak Team" - Stanisław Gralak - multiple medalist of national and international events in the masters category and Maciek Gralak - the most titled Polish representative in Armwrestling and Paraarmwrestling. And, of course, The Mom - Mrs. Grażyna and two older brothers who also practice sports. However, armwrestling on the scale of Polish representation is the domain of Stanisław and Maciej.
How do they live and what do they do outside the world of sports? In the recently launched series of articles titled "NOT ONLY armwrestling" I attempt to present selected people from our environment and their activity outside of sports, for example in local politics.
The entire history of Armwrestling in the city and commune of Dąbie begins precisely at the interface between sports and local authorities.
This episode concerns Maciej Gralak, known to all of you from the World and European Championships, the "Zloty Tur" Tournament and the Disabled World Cup. Maciej is now 30 years old and is in his sporting prime. Right next to him, just a little older (60 years old) is his father, Stanisław Gralak. You also know him from international masters competitions.
Both combine sports and social passions in a very concrete way. Thanks to Maciek, people in the town and commune are slowly but surely starting to treat disabled people completely differently, they are proud of the sporting achievements of “their own" contestant. The work on popularizing sports, specifically armwrestling and even more specifically Pararmwrestling on a local scale - translates very specifically and advantageously into the situation of disabled people in the city and commune.
The whole sporting, armwrestling history of "Gralak Team" began in the nearby village of Tranówka in the Volunteer Fire Brigade building. It was 2005. Stanisław Gralak was then the mayor of the city and commune. He had no idea that armwrestling even existed ...
An unexpected visit
I was then that a few experienced armwrestlers came to his office and asked for help in organizing a competition, the usual stuff - a venue, some prizes, cups, diplomas. Stanisław Gralak helped and the first competition for the Mayor of Dąbie Cup has been born.
Maciek stood by and looked, he was not yet competing, but ...
Both men realized that this sport offered the perfect rehabilitation possibilities for Maciek - and not only physical. From that moment, this armwrestling "magnet" acted on both of them and turned their whole lives upside down. Maciej started his adventure with armwrestling a year later in October 2006. First successes and first small competitions, starts in the junior category and then on to the Polish Championships and Cups, his first official national team tracksuit, participation in competitions abroad, first successes. Both men represent the Arm Fanatic Sport Grudziądz club, they spar there, but they also have a well-equipped place for training right next to their house. They train every day, sometimes just the two of them, sometimes with other armwrestlers living in the area.
The most popular athlete in the commune
A dozen or so years of work, with successes but sometimes also losses. Maciek has been living in Dąbie since his birth. Soon, he became one of the most recognizable armwrestling athletes in Poland, liked and respected for his sporting attitude at- and outside- competitions. Everyone knows him and he knows everyone. He knows exactly what residents need. The work of the local politician is also not strange to him, because he grew up accompanying and observing his father, who was the mayor of the city and the commune for several terms.
And now the son follows in the footsteps of his father and is now seriously in action.
The Professionals' World Cup "Zloty Tur" takes place every year in Rumia, Poland. And it is always immediately followed by the Disabled World Cup. Maciek is not here! No one from "Gralak Team" enters the comp! Why? The reason is that our hero has been elected to the Dabie City and Commune Council by a solid majority of votes, and his oath ceremony overlapped the date of the event. Absence completely justified!
Sports and politics
Sports and politics - but strictly local! Both men argue that practicing sports significantly helps in political and social activities. Sports teach to accept the possibility of losing. A politician - athlete accepts the possibility of losing, this does not mean the end of the world for him. He shakes it off and returns to the game. Stanisław admits that when he grew up and his future was just taking shape, "circumstances" were unfortunate. If it were not for sports, namely Judo and bodybuilding and work instead of parties - he would not graduate from school and university. Maciek also confirms that professional sport helps and teaches many things useful in local politics. He is accustomed with popularity, he is not afraid of meetings and conversations. Before the elections to the City Council, he led a truly "American" door-to-door campaign, visiting almost all residents. During his years of starts, he got to know the world. It gave him a reference point as to how other people act in similar situations.
Stanisław notices the only inconvenience when an athlete becomes a local politician. It can be a habit of sports fair play, which is not obvious in politics.
Entering local government elections
The decision to enter the local elections was made unanimously in the family circle. Stanisław believes that Maciek will be a perfect councilman, if only because of his openness to other views and sensitivity to the problems of people who are less fit, ill, older but also young. These will be concrete issues - lighting, sidewalks, driveways, places where you can carry out your plans. There will also be activities for the betterment of the image of a disabled person. A lot has changed over the years, but in smaller towns, people with disabilities are still afraid of the reactions of others and often prefer not to go outside, not participate in social life. Councilors like Maciek Gralak, change their approach and allow many disabled people to bloom in their local communities.
Preparations for the season
Both members of the "Gralak Team" are currently in preparation for the Polish Championships, which will take place at the beginning of April. They train long and hard, sometimes just the two of them and sometimes with several other armwrestlers, as it turns out that many Polish representatives in this sport settled around the Dąbie commune.
Surely it's a matter of the "political" climate, or maybe the local nature…