Kiwert – a ski jumper from Vilnius like Małysz or Stoch!

© Marian Paluszkiewicz

The Olympic competition on the normal hill is already a history and the one on the large hill is still before us. The second gold medal in Sochi, and the forth in the history of the Polish sport, won Kamil Stoch.  He followed in the other Polish sports legend`s footsteps – Adam Małysz, although Małysz never became an Olympic champion.

Although the discipline like ski jumping does not have any particular tradition in Lithuania, a pre – war ski jumper from Vilnius, Zbigniew Kiwert,  is an exception from this rule. Between 1962 -1970  in the Lithuanian Championships he won 4 gold and 5 silver medals. Currently any of the Lithuanian athletes practicing ski jumping represents the country on world stage.

Zbigniew Kiwert was born in June 1939. He cames from a Polish family but spent the childhood in Vilnian Antokol. He attended a nearby Vilnian Secondary School No. 5. In skiing he ended up after the war, the rough time, when there lacked of the equipment, skis and ski – sticks but the youth craved for skiing and ski jumping.

–          At the Borowa Street in Vilnian Antokol, at the foot of Sapieżynki, I started my sports journey. It is where I played sports with my friends. I was lucky because I did not need to commute there, as for example my friends who had to go from some distant places. For us it was the best way to spend our free time. My 8 years younger brother Kazimierz, who also loved this sport, trained with us. – said Zbigniew Kiwert in the interview with “Kurier”.

The first, wooden skis Kiwert received from his father Bolesław.

–          My second skis I also got from my dad. He gave for them 17 kilogram of potatoes. He supported me, often came to see when I was training. My parents had nothing against this hobby. My passion for the winter sports has lasted already since I was a small kid. And I did it quite well! – recollects Zbigniew Kiwert.

In 1954 a novice ski jumper joined the “Spartak”. In this sports club Maryna Izotowa had already trained a group of the determined skiing’s fans.

Also this Vilnian talented ski jumper was taken by under Izotowa` s wings. It was she who started the trainings and taught the real art of skiing and its basis. At that time Kiwert became a Lithuanian junior champion in ski jumping and also in the relay 4x5km. Thereby he laid the foundations of his future successes in the Nordic Combination which at that time was popular among the youth, as well. In 1958 he won the bronze medal at the Lithuanian Ski Jumping Championships.

–          When I ended up in the army and served in the remote Sachalin, I was forced to quit sports for some time. Luckily my talent for sport was finally discovered. Then I was moved to the other military union, where I could train to my heart`s content. After leaving the army I had been involved in winter sports for about ten years – says Zbigniew Kiwert.

As our interlocutor points out, ski jumping of today have nothing in common with ski jumping practiced at that time.

–          Formerly it was just jumping, now this sport is more like the birds` flights. Once that was rather a lot of fun, although we obviously put it into hard work. Following the athletes now, I feel really sorry for them. There are so many requirements to fulfill, even the case of the weight, the age. Once no one even thought about that. Nowadays the athletes need to be really strong, not just physically but also psychically. – says Zbigniew Kiwert.

The Vilnian ski jumper claims that present suits and skis are not similar at all to these ones, which he had used. As he recollects, at that time they used wooden skis, greased with the paraffin.

No one could have even imagined the equipment which athletes have nowadays . When we wanted to ski, everyone wore what he had. I had the navy blue trousers with the artificial stretch fabric and the jumper and I was very proud of it, since not everyone had it. And the shoes were a real torment for the legs. They were very heavy but at least adjust to the skis. It was just me among all the skiers who had, co called now, goggles. Actually these were the glasses wore by the motorcyclist. And that was exactly the athlete`s portrait of that times – relates Kiwert.

No one has ever heard him boasting about his sports achievements. He tells very rare about the time when he practiced sport and takes it not too seriously since he did his job and there is no point in a continuous dwelling in the past.

–          I never took into account combining my life with sport. As for me, it just went by. I do not even know where all my medals and diplomas are.

However in the 60s and 70s – when the ski jumper won 4 gold, 5 silver and 1 bronze medal at the Lithuanian Championships (both in ski jumping and in Nordic Combination) – was a really good period for him. This medal collection was completed with the trophies won in the Lithuanian Championships in Nordic Combination – a mixture of ski jumping and 15km ski cross.

–          When it comes to sports results, for me only the medals and score locates mattered. The rest is just participation in it. Since young years I have been passionate also about the cars – perhaps as a result of the fact that my father worked the whole life as a driver.

In his biography some similarities to the Adam Małysz`s biography may be found. The Vilnian ski jumper after “retiring” found his new passion – also referring to sport – the rally. In 1974 he ended up in the experimental group which was supposed to prepare the cars for the Stasys Brundza`s rally.

–          I dealt with so many cars that it is just difficult to imagine. I transformed the normal cars into the sports ones, which turned out to be great on the wilderness. I prepared the cars for Stasys Brundza and he won – recollects Kiwert.

The cooperation with Brundza had lasted for 27 years. When it came to an end, Kiwert opened a company  “Kiwert – sport” that specialized in adjusting the engine so that they could meet the requirements.

–          I make living by transforming “normal” engines into the really professional ones. For me it is not a job but a pure pleasure. I`m lucky since I can earn money doing something, what I like the most. It is not so common nowadays.

He is able to change the engine in about 90-95%. It takes him about 2 – 2,5 months. He does it accurately as a jeweler, after which the engine gains additionally even 80% of the power.

But coming back to ski jumping… Among the Zbigniew Kiwert`s rivals there were Jerzy and Tadeusz Zaremba, Oskar Hajdamowicz, Tauras Milašius and many, many others.

–          Between the 50s and 60s  ski jumping were quite popular in Lithaunia. Many people practiced this discipline. I took up on it thanks to Hajdamowicz. When I saw him jumping for the first time I was enchanted and I decided to try! – said Tauras Milašius.

As he mentions with the grief, he never achieved anything in sports. For him it was just a way to spend the free time.

–          Zbigniew Kiwert was a real champion in ski jumping and I was just passionate about it. We trained for many hours. Once the rivalry was not as big as now. When anyone of us needed some help, we all helped each other with pleasure – recollects Milašius.

Vilnian ski jumping hills

There were several ski jumping hills in Lithuania, two in Vilnius. First of them was built in 1924 on Three Crosses, next to the stadium „Dynamo”. The second one was built after the II World War on Anatol on Sapieżynki. The ski jumping hill on Three Crosses was covered with the plastic in the 60s. Both of the hills were soon dismantled. The then authorities of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic acknowledged that their ski jumpers do not come up to athletes from other Soviet Republics, and all the more from the Norway.

However, a new ski jumping hill was built quite fast in Ingnalin, where the Lithuanian Championships were held (the previous one took place in Vilnius). The Pole living in Vilnius, Zbigniew Kiwert, became a World Champion in 1962.


The next Olympic competition in Sochi is planned for 15th February. Ski jumping on the large hill we could follow on TVP 1 at 18.25 ( CET).

The team competition will be held on the large hill, as well. The broadcasting on TVP 1 will start at 18.25 (CET) and on „Lietuvos rytas” at 19.15.


Tłumaczenie by Barbara Toczek w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, Translated by Barbara Toczek within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights,

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