- Wiesław Maniak started playing the sport at an Irish university by the name of Vic Manning, and the fans got to run races
- When she became so vocal about him, he turned down the efforts of the English and wrote a letter to the Polish Athletics Federation to represent the colors white and red.
- The authorities of the People’s Republic of Poland examined whether the runner was a spy from the West
When someone asked his name, he introduced himself as Vic Manning. Just in case, so as not to make a fuss. Great Britain was a truly multicultural country in the early 1950s and 1960s, and the question of where someone was coming from was not the first question that came to mind among residents of the British Isles and Ireland. Besides, the universities were teeming with Australians and New Zealanders. But he was from a different world, not even any previous English colony. Plus, he didn’t know he wanted to be a runner. It might not have been believed then that after only a few years, in a stadium full of maximums, he would be on the right track with the best runners in the world in the Olympic final.
Flying Manning wants to compete for Poland
His real name was Wiesław Maniak, and he became an athlete by accident, because when he was in an Irish university, he actually had to do some sport. At first there was a long jump, then a javelin throw with a triple rotation. He already had an idea about athletics since he entered Polish High School, when he was training at FC Czarni in Szczecin. He has yet to decide what to invest in, and has suffered a traumatic spinal injury. Doctors put him in a corset, and after a few months they recommended him jogging as part of his rehabilitation.
Sprinting quickly turned into a sprint. The geek came under the wing of coach Les Mitchell, who helped him become the Northern England champion 100 yards and the summer of 220 yards. There was also another place at an extraordinary 60 yards, because it must be remembered that only the British in 1967 “switched” to the meters.
Even then, as an amateur economics and athlete, he became a domestic star. Crowds flocked to local athletics events to see “Flying Manning” – a flying runner from the Eastern Bloc. The Tokyo Olympics were slowly approaching, and the English press began to claim citizenship for this exceptional foreigner.
When it was noisy about him, he turned down the efforts of the English and wrote a letter to the Polish Athletics Federation to join the Olympic competition with an eagle on its chest. He was treated with little suspicion, but promised to give him a chance. The condition was to return to the country.
He was not a Western spy
He had to tell the representatives of the people’s government exactly everything. It turns out then that the unknown stranger was not a spy from the West, and he was born into the world before World War II in the Borderlands. After his completion, he moved with his mother to Szczecin, but his father, who had previously been sent to Kazakhstan through his service in the army of General Anders, ended up in Manchester.
He brought his son up after many years without a word of contact, as he was already a student at the Szczecin University of Technology. In England, the young Maniac worked with his father as a factory worker, then moved to study in Dublin. Hence, his path to athletics became simple, albeit somewhat random.
At the CWKS Legia Warszawa’s first training course in Spaasa, he was not welcomed with open arms. A broad team had already been selected for the Olympics, and the arrival of another competitor was not satisfactory to the competitors. Fate was not on his side because he had contracted the flu. Therefore, the final test of its usefulness was to have the Polish championship in Bydgoszcz. There, the “redeeming pole” took second place behind Jerzy Guskoviak and convinced coach Włodzimierz Drużbiak, who had already prepared for him a role in the 4-time Olympic 100m relay.
The unpleasant atmosphere at the Warsaw club prompted him to return to Szczecin, where he decided to finish his studies at the University of Technology. Pogo club, who had been their player for years, also welcomed him willingly.
Got a “wind in his sails”
The coaches’ appetite, not the fans with whom he had few ties so far, increased during the athletics match with Great Britain, where he achieved his best result in the 100 meters. He also impressed when he perfectly competed with Germany. Only games remain at the end of the world – in distant Japan.
The distance between Warsaw and Tokyo did not allow live TV broadcasts of the Olympic competition. The recorded record of the sports competition was sent via the Relay-A satellite to Poland with a delay of several hours. However, anyone who has ever wanted can listen to Bohdan Tomachowski’s radio coverage of the Maniac races. A lot happened.
He reached the semi-finals with a good time of 10.7, behind Cuban sprinter Enrique Figueiroli. There, however, he did indeed get such “the wind in his sails”, literally coming in with a Polish record of 10.1 seconds behind the favorite 100% gold candidate, Bob Hayes. Fans in the stands believed the American had reached the speed of sound, and he’s running at a speed no one has ever done before. 9.9 seconds cannot be considered a world record, precisely because of strong winds. The same Maniak was immediately stripped of the Polish record. However, both men were left with the Olympic final, and very few believed in the pole.
The final was scheduled to take place on the same day, just an hour and a half later, but it looks like the participation was part of its entirety – the greatest sporting show imaginable.
The fastest white man in the world
Before it even began, in the two player tunnels leading to the dressing rooms, the weather was not calm. The stadium was completely filled with the movements of the eagerly anticipated fans of this moment. On the press box, attention is drawn to Jesse Owens – one of the greatest runners of all time, who contributed to the running race for American television. Nearby, Bohdan Tomashevsky was sitting with the Polish radio microphone.
– Five blacks and three whites – a German, an American and a polar. They led them through the tunnel to the field. Hayes was walking in front of a madman. He nervously moved his arms. Sweat descended from behind his neck. “He was scared,” said the Polish. “They led us like lions into the arena,” recalling Maniac’s feelings.
A long silence as they kneel down, then only the piercing masses ring as they lunge forward. Hayes was the first from start to finish, winning in 10 seconds. He kept running past the finish line and suddenly stopped – standing with his hand raised, as if he was happily frozen. He was so beautiful in motion, strong, and generous that the photojournalists lacked the courage to run close to them. This moment terrified them. They even felt like he wanted to be alone with himself now. Manyac ranked fourth – the first in the world among whites – according to the sports commentator, and is still active today.
– I’m fourth? Manyac asked for a moment after the end of the race. – it can not be! I was convinced that I was the sixth. I actually lost at first two meters, and in the middle of the distance I felt like I was losing speed, as if something had stopped me. Fortunately, I finally regained the beat – the contestant in red shorts and white T-shirt said with the starting number 493. After a moment the light board gave the results: 4. Insane, time 10.4. In Poland, joy is like a medal – “We have the fastest man in Europe!”
Great success for the Polish relay race
It wasn’t all that Maniac could do during these games. After all, a competition in which he would run with three of his relay teammates was coming. Upgrading to final was not a problem. The quartet of Jerzy Zieliski, Wiesław Maniak, Marian Foik, and Marian Dudziak was a quartet of good collaborators.
When Zieliński handed the baton over to Maniak, Poland was not yet the first. Moments later, just as behind the back of a speeding contestant in white and red, Jerry Ashworth is running as fast as he can. Voeck maintained the lead, but Bob Hayes was already waiting for the Americans’ final turn. At 40 meters, he quickly compensated for the loss to the Frenchman and Marianne Dudziak.
– Suddenly I heard a whistle, Hayes ran in front of me like a storm, and it seemed to me that I was standing – remember Dodzak, who ran second to the finish line. But there was nothing to think about. The Polish relay was a huge success because the Americans were out of reach. The nation has gained new stars, with the formidable maniac at its head.
The athlete, formed in Great Britain, confirmed his class during the Polish championship, breaking the national record with a score of 10.1 seconds, measured by hand, as there was no electrical measurement there. When the new record was confirmed, he was not in danger because the race took place in windless weather.
The photovoltaic cell had to be determined
Manyac and wearable have already been counted. The European Championship was to be shown in Budapest and they were. In running 10.7 seconds, he easily qualified for the finals. But at this most important moment, it seemed that fate was no longer on his side again. The sky gave competitors and spectators an unplanned downpour.
On the day of the finals, it was raining almost the whole day. Only in the evening the rains subsided a little, leaving puddles here and there. However, the largest of them was ahead of Manyac, which charted Route 7. Unfortunately, the first ten meters had to be covered by the pole wading in the water almost to its ankles, but it took off like a storm.
He lost a little bit of his life before the finish line and it seemed that his two favorite rivals – Roger Bambuki and Claude Bekmal of France and Manfred Knikenberg of Germany – had followed him. They were all measured at the same time – 10.5 and the PV had to decide. You had to wait half an hour, but a Pole turned out to be European champion!
The relay race did not bring joy to the white and red fans. Fifth place due to injury to Dodziak, who limped and passed the stick to Manyac. I am very sorry that my team-mates lost their medals. Budapest is unlucky for me this time. I failed the 200 meters, and now this race … I promised myself that I would not compete in the future in the relay race – Dodziak said, and as he said, he did.
“your husband is dead …”
However, Majnun was already a full-fledged star whose articles were printed in a foreign color press. The prestigious French track and field magazine “Miroir de L’athletism” placed the pole in a poster in one of its 1967. Unfortunately, the end of his impressive form was slowly approaching.
After his successes in previous years, he made many promises after his participation in the Olympics in Mexico. One of the contenders for medals is being cited by English newspapers, a tough direct contender for Charlie Green. However, the Americans had no problems with it. The pole lost in the qualifying rounds. The relay with him in the squad reached the final, but there was already the last eighth place.
Manyac was left with his backyard, but it wasn’t easy to beat here either. A participant in the sport’s champions ball from 1967, only managed to win in 1971, and after a moment, again to no avail, he participated in the European Championship in Helsinki. A year later, he decided to end his career.
There are shared memories and experiences of his successes, which became more remote in time, such as during the TV program “Meet Years After”, where the Tokyo Olympics relay was held in Warsaw, with the participation of the interested parties themselves.
The former European champion and Olympic medalist could not tell anyone that he was a rich man, because he received gifts in the form of a bed or a TV set because of his successes. As an educated man, he found work in Energopol, which often sent him in foreign delegations, in the Middle East, and in the Soviet Union. One of these trips brought tragic news to his wife, Christina Hady: “Your engineer husband, Veslav Maniak, died from a brain tumor on June 28, 1982.” It later turned out that the direct cause of his death was a cerebral hemorrhage, but it was not known if it could be related to radiation from the nuclear power plant in Kurzatov. We will probably never find out. Manyac was buried in a cemetery in Wawrzyszewo, Warsaw. In 2001, the athletics stadium in Szczecin was named after him.