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Konrad Debniak’s Story Of Resilience

The Special Olympics Poland athlete finds confidence, equality, and purpose through sports.
Konrad is wearing a red Special Olympics jersey and smiles at the camera while holding his medals.
Special Olympics Poland athlete, Konrad Debniak, celebrates his success at the XI Special Olympics Poland National Winter Games 2024 in which he competed in cross country skiing.

Sports have not only brought joy to Konrad Debniak, they have also provided the 34-year-old Special Olympics Poland athlete with a sense of strong confidence, and the feeling of genuine equality on the field.

"When I play sports, people have always treated me with dignity, with confidence,” he said. "Through my time with Coach Remigiusz Woźniak and Special Olympics Poland, no one has ever called me weaker, inferior, useless. On the contrary, my peers—no matter what ability—treat me as an athlete. This is good for all of us.”

Konrad contends that his physical and intellectual disabilities have not limited him in any way, but rather strengthened his ability to adapt and discover new things. He speaks often to the health benefits that he has gained through sustained exercise and social engagement with Special Olympics Poland athletes.

"I love being with fellow athletes. It gives me joy, motivation, and a feeling of fulfillment. What could be better?”

Special Olympics changed Konrad’s life forever

In 2014, after he graduated from a special school in the city of Ostrowiec Swietokrzyski, Konrad began training to be a technician in information technology. He then proceeded onto an occupational therapy workshop. It was here that his life, and the life of his family and community, would change forever.

Introduced to Special Olympics Poland’s Szansa Club in Ostrowiece Swietokrzyski, he began training immediately in cross country skiing and Nordic Walking. "My favourite sports are basketball, cross country skiing and football.

”Unfortunately, due to my health condition, there are some sports I cannot play. Even those that I can play, I must remain very diligent to ensure that I do not compromise my health.”

Konrad and David standing in front of a screen smiling at the camera with their hands locked together.
Special Olympics Poland athlete, Konrad Debniak, and Special Olympics Europe Eurasia President, David Evangelista, at the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Conference in Warsaw in early 2024.

Konrad recently spoke at the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Conference in Warsaw early in 2024, where key discussions focused on industry relations, the convergence of politics and policy, and the innovative marketing strategies that companies employ to share their corporate social responsibility. Keynotes and panels marked the headlines, but it was the story of Konrad Debniak that became the highlight of the national event.

Konrad, who proudly carried the Special Olympics flag at the Opening Ceremony during the Poland National Games in Kielce in 2023, expressed that it was his deep sense of national pride that motivated him to be among the first Special Olympics Poland athletes to support the extensive national humanitarian effort as Poland welcomed millions of Ukrainian refugees starting from February 2022.

For a population that is often seen as the beneficiary of service, Konrad speaks to the clarity of thought, and grit, that individuals with intellectual disabilities have, even in the most difficult of times.

Konrad’s new narrative of reciprocal support

"The situation was really challenging. We did whatever was necessary. One never knows if something like that could happen to you one day, so it was only right to help those who really needed it. I still have contact with the families who have since returned to Ukraine.”

One man holding a microphone looks towards Konrad and another man sitting alongside him with a large screen of a man being interviewed in the background.
Special Olympics Poland athlete, Konrad Debniak, addressing the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Conference in Warsaw in early 2024.

"Good comes back,” Konrad added, highlighting how doing good for others has a deliberate way of returning, representing a positive boomerang effect.

This feeling of reciprocal support is something that defines his new narrative, a storyline made possible by the inclusion movement of Special Olympics across Poland.

"Special Olympics is fantastic for people with disabilities, and for the whole nation of Poland. We feel supported by our local communities, our sports clubs. We are given opportunities to train, to compete, but also to contribute. Through Special Olympics we become resilient, tougher. We are helping make Poland the great nation it is, and I know that the athletes of Special Olympics Poland take great pride in representing our nation.”