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28 August 2020 | in Winter FISU World University Games

Spotlight: Remembering the Zakopane 1993 Winter Universiade

Our stroll down the Universiade memory lane takes us this week to the base of the Tatras Mountains in southern Poland for the Zakopane 1993 Winter Universiade


zakopane alpineLook mom, no helmet! An Austrian alpiner attacks the Men's Super-G competition with aplomb during the Zakopane 1993 Winter Universiade.

The organisers of the Zakopane 1993 Winter Universiade dodged a rather sizeable bullet when snow started falling in the area on the day of the Opening Ceremony. Until then, the weather had been so mild that the snow-making machines were rendered useless, thereby putting the skiing events in jeopardy.


The snow brought relief to the organisers and added a touch of magic to the Opening Ceremony, which was attended by 40,000 people, including Polish President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Lech Walesa.


zakoopane ceremony“I am entirely convinced that competition does not at all mean hostility,” Walesa said in his welcoming speech. “Competition and friendship, in fact, can go hand in hand together perfectly … I would be happy if, from Zakopane, a message would go out carrying the Olympic ideal, where friendship replaces hatred, solidarity replaces hostility and noble competition replaces fighting.”


There was certainly a good mix of competition and friendship in the ice hockey tournament, on a number of different levels. With the break-up of both Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union since the previous Winter Universiade in Sapporo, a number of new teams were formed and competition at Zakopane sometimes pitted former teammates against each other.


In the absence of reigning champions Canada, Russia would go on to win the tournament, with a surprising Kazakhstan in second and Slovakia in third. Kazakhstan was given a major boost en route to its silver medal thanks to the fair play of the South Koreans, who agreed to play the Kazakhs despite the latter having arrived at the tournament late after their bus was delayed at the Kazakh border. South Korea should have been awarded an automatic victory but the FISU Executive Committee made the difficult decision to allow the game to be rescheduled, with the Koreans deciding to play “out of honour.” South Korea would eventually finish last at the tournament.

zakopane skijumperA ski jumper crests the lip of the knoll during the Men's Large Hill competition during the Zakopane 1993 Winter Universiade

That was not the only story from the hockey tournament to make headlines in Zakopane. The home team surprised their opponents with their good spirits, pun intended. The Polish players were allegedly so taken with the local nightclub that they frequented it every night, even when playing the next day. This likely explains their second-to-last-place finish.


For the second straight Winter Universiade, Japan finished first in the medals table with 6 gold, 5 silver and 4 bronze medals. China also won 6 golds (10 medals overall) while Team USA topped the podium five times, finishing with 15 medals overall.

zakopane mountainsceneThe high Tatras Mountains have been the setting for many of the finest athletic performances in Winter Universiade history. The protected national parkland is home to 29 peaks over 2,500 metres, and last helped host the event in 2015 in Štrbské pleso, Slo