“I didn’t expect it, it was a complete surprise. Very nice, pleasing, but it really is only a bonus. What matters is our team's gold,” said Kwolek in an interview afterwards. Measuring 1.93m with a range in attack at 3.43m, the young man demonstrated an impressive all-round game for his age in particular. He was the second-best points scorer in the Polish team, but was also convincing in receiving and serving.
One of Kwolek's idols is Pavel Abramov. The former Russian national team player also played for Jastrzebski Wegiel a few years ago and Kwolek also wants to play for the top team in the PlusLiga, which won bronze in the European Champions League last year. He gathered valuable experience in the first division in Spala last season. “I want to develop, improve. Now the most important thing is to learn,” he said.
He also wants to celebrate as many successes as possible with the juniors. Following the continental title – Poland have now claimed eight medals in this event, with gold in 2005 and 2015, silver in 2001, 2003, 2007 and 2013, and bronze in 1995 and 1997 – Kwolek also wants to pick up medals at the FIVB Boys' U19 World Championship. “We have shown we are the best in Europe, we showed strength and value, so why not fight for the medal in South America as well? This trip is going to be a great adventure and opportunity. Our appetite is growing, we're going after a medal,” said Kwolek.
Such successes in junior competitions were the first step on the way to a great career for many of today's Polish stars. However, Kwolek is fully aware that this is no guarantee: “There is still a long way to go to become one of their successors. Let's remember, there are athletes who started a great career after winning medals with the national team of cadets. But there are others who later remained only masters of their own backyard. It’s important to stay calm and keep a clear head. Volleyball is not only about the physical aspect.”
The young man dubbed Bartek has his family to thank for this healthy attitude. His father was once a good volleyball player himself. Bartosz reached a certain level, practising outside any club. “This shows that anyone has a chance to develop, if he has the talent and character,” said father Mariusz Kwolek. His son added: “I come from Plock, where volleyball is not as popular a sport as football. My dad played volleyball, so this made me optimistic that I could handle it. Every game brings us closer to fulfilling our dreams and playing in the highest league or the senior national team. I am where I am and let's see what happens.”