Lausanne, Switzerland, November 16, 2020 – Known as the “golden boy” of Polish volleyball, 32-year-old Bartosz Kurek has left a bright mark on world volleyball over the years. And now he is Volleyball World’s Player of the Week.
Blood type: volleyball
Born in Walbrzych in 1988 as the son of volleyballer Adam Kurek, who played 84 matches with the Polish national team, young Bartosz started practising the sport in Nysa, and in 2004 made his professional debut for the club playing alongside his father.
First high-level achievements
The following season, he joined the Mostostal Kedzierzyn-Kozle powerhouse. And soon after that, in 2005, Bartosz Kurek and his teammates of Poland’s youth national team triumphed as European champions in their age group. Kurek was named Best Spiker of the championship.
It did not take very long before the young talent received his first call to the senior Polish national team at the age of 19. Just two years later, he was among those who celebrated with the gold medals at EuroVolley 2009 in Turkey.
Later in 2009, now wearing the jersey of PGE Skra Belchatow, Kurek won silver at the FIVB Volleyball Men's Club World Championship and was the best scorer of the tournament.
Bartosz Kurek receives the Best Scorer award at the 2009 FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship in Doha.
Business as usual: medals and awards
This was just the beginning of a very prolific period for the 2.05m-tall athlete. He also won silver at the 2010 Club World Championship, CEV Champions League bronze and silver, silver at the 2011 FIVB Volleyball World Cup, bronze at the 2011 FIVB Volleyball World League (best scorer), bronze at EuroVolley 2011 (best server), gold at the 2012 World League (MVP) and several domestic trophies in Poland.
Jumping for joy after the last whistle of the 2012 World League final in Sofia.
Bartosz Kurek’s first international transfer became reality in 2012 when he joined Russian standout Dinamo Moscow for a season before moving to Cucine Lube Banca Marche Macerata for the following two seasons and winning the 2014 Italian championship and Italian Super Cup.
But this was also the time when Kurek surprisingly did not make the national team for the 2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship in Poland and had to watch the squad’s golden triumph from the outside, events which marked a temporary downturn in his career.
He was back on the team that won silver at the 2015 World Cup, however, and qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games. But Poland’s failure to make the semis in Rio after losing to USA in straight sets in the quarterfinals was a huge disappointment to Kurek himself. Several weeks later he resigned from his recently signed contract with Japan’s JT Thunders Hiroshima and was on the verge of sitting out the whole season.
“The Olympic Games was the biggest blow and the most difficult moment. I really gave a lot to get the result I dreamed of, but failed. I thought the time off after the Olympics would have a positive effect on me, but it didn't. When I started training with JT Thunders, I felt that it was not what I expected from myself or what such a good club expected from me,” Kurek confessed later in a dzienniklodzki.pl interview.
“I was thinking about giving up the whole season to relax and recover, but everyone said it would be best if I could get back to my normal life as soon as possible,” continued Kurek. “And my normal life is volleyball...”
Back to normal? No, back to the top of the world!
So he returned to Poland to rejoin his former club Skra and put his career back on track. The following season, as a member of Turkey’s Ziraat Bankasi Ankara, Kurek won the 2018 CEV Cup, but his real comeback actually came at the 2018 World Championship in Bulgaria and Italy.
And what a comeback it was! Bartosz Kurek led Poland to a second consecutive world title, himself deserving the honour of Most Valuable Player of the tournament. The Polish star impressed with his overall performance on the way to the title, but his brilliant scoring skills drew the most attention. Kurek hammered out as many as 171 points to top the best scorers’ chart of the World Championship.
He took responsibility when it counted the most. The first time he top-scored for his team was in the last match of the first round, when he piled up 21 points for the win against hosts Bulgaria. Even more crucial was his role in Poland’s last match of the second round, when he top-scored again with 21 points for the 3-0 victory over Serbia. Against the same strong opponent, but in the third round, Kurek was the best scorer of the match again as he contributed 15 points to another shutout. And in the crucial match against co-hosts Italy, when Poland needed to win a set to advance to the semis, he took charge again to score five points in the 25-14 landslide opening set, after which he took some well-deserved rest ahead of the next matches in the competition.
And it was indeed during the semifinals and the final that Kurek shone the most. With an amazing record of 29 points he was the most prolific player in the 3-2 victory over USA, which propelled Poland to the gold medal match. In the final against Brazil, the Polish star had only three sets to sparkle, but still managed to top the charts with 24 points before being crowned as world champion and MVP.
"I only care about our victory and about this medal around my neck. We played great. We played better than any other team. We are proud, as we know our victory was well deserved!” he said after the awarding ceremony.
Having found his way back to top-level volleyball, Bartosz Kurek also found his way back to the Japanese league. This season he stars for Wolfdogs Nagoya, with next year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold also on his mind.
“Regardless of whether I am sure of my spot on the national team or I have to fight for it, I would behave the same way,” he told Polish media. “I met the news about the postponement with acceptance and understanding, but we need to make the most of this extra time we have to prepare. These Olympic Games can be something more than just a sports competition. They can become a symbol of our return to normality. I believe that next year we will be able to meet in a great celebration of victory!”