Modena, Italy, September 22, 2010 – It has been more than 30 years since Polish legend Edward Skorek left Modena with his Volleyball career approaching the later stages, but despite the inexorable march of time he is still recognized in the streets of this antique Italian city by many people who refer to him just as “The Idol”.
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His stellar play en route to an Italian League crown in 1975-76 with the Modena team, then supported by Italian brothers Giuseppe and Benito Panini, is still fresh in the minds of a generation who followed him during those days of epic battles.
“People here in Modena love Volleyball and it is some kind of reward that they still remember me after so many years,” Skorek said on his return to the city as a Control Committee member for the FIVB Men’s World Championship which starts on Saturday.
But he says the triumph he and his teammates attained at the Olympics of 1976 in Montreal when they won the gold medal with a come-from-behind victory over Russia was more important than become a familiar face.
“People in all of Europe were following that match on TV because it had political value,” Skorek explained. “We, the players, were friends to each other, but many people kept asking if our goverment has given us orders to lose, which we proved wrong.”
Skorek, currently a Physical Education teacher at Warsaw University and coach of the Volleyball Alma Mater team, rates the Olympic gold medal achievement above any other during his sport career.
“To win an Olympic gold medal is the ultimate honour a player can achieve,” says the FIVB Technical Commission member. “So I have to put that one above the World Championship in Mexico in 1974."
Nicknamed as “Great Bomber” for his trademark rocketing cross-court spikes, Skorek explains how they prepared for the Olympic Games of 1976.
“In those days, as you can recall, matches of Volleyball could last more than three hours,” he says. “So our coach Hubert Wagner prepared us training about 10 hours a day at a high altitute of more than 2,000 feet in France before going to Montreal. We were really prepared for everything.”
Four of their six matches in the tournament went to the limit of five sets, including the semifinal and final matches against Japan and Russia. The other five-setters were against South Korea and bronze medalists Cuba in the preliminary pool play.
A member of the Volleyball Hall of Fame in Holyoke, Massachussetts since 2006, Skorek received the good news of his induction from his friend and former rival, Douglas Beal, currently Chief Executive Officer of USA Volleyball and a fellow at Holyoke Hall since 1989.
“One year earlier, Stanislaw Gosciniak, our setter in the national team, had been selected for the Hall of Fame and he was some kind of a player,” says Skorek, the captain of those successful Polish sides. “Doug sent me the good news via an e-mail and I really was elated to know about that kind of recognition. During my time as a player we were dedicated to studying, so winning those medals and that kind of recognition makes you feel proud about yourself.”
Coach Wagner, who passed away in 2002, is one of the new members of the 2010 class to be inducted into the Hall of Fame next October 22 in a ceremony where of FIVB President Mr. Jizhong Wei will be a special guest.
In 2002, middle-blocker Tomasz Wotowicz was the first member of that Poland’s gold medal winning team to be elected.
Skorek finished his career playing for El Paso-Juarez-Sol and Denver Comets in the now defunct International Volleyball Association in United States.
Last year, during the FIVB Women’s Junior Championship in Mexicali and Tijuana, Mexico, he received a cup commemorating the 35th anniversary of the World Championship won by Poland in 1974 in Mexico City.
“The real satisfaction I have after my long career is that I had the opportunity to make so many friends around the world throughout a fantastic sport like Volleyball, one vehicle of union and a sport without violence,” said Skorek.
In Modena, for sure, he made many friends and he is still loved by people.
FIVB Press Department Director - Richard Baker
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