Michal Gierzot on the serve

A good team need a good leader, and a good leader needs a good team. That's the recipe for success and seems to be what Poland have put in place for the FIVB Volleyball Men's U21 World Championship.

“It’s my first time as a captain and it’s a really good feeling!” the 2.07m-tall outside hitter told Volleyball World on the premises of the tournament at the Levski Sofia volleyball hall in Bulgaria. “I think my teammates like me. I have a really good connection with our coach and everyone else. I hope to lead this team to a medal, but we know that in volleyball seven guys are playing. It doesn’t matter that I am the captain, because we have 12 lions that are hungry and want everything.”

One of the reasons these young talents are hungry is that it is actually the first world championship for this generation of Polish volleyballers. They did not qualify for the U19 World Championship two years ago or for any age-category continental championships until last year.

“Our team was not as good as it is now,” explained Gierzot. “But now we are here to win a medal. We know that our team has a really good potential. We are tall, we are strong, we can play volleyball and I think we can achieve our goal.”

Michal Gierzot spikes over the Cuban block in Sofia

Michal Gierzot spikes over the Cuban block in Sofia

Gierzot and his teammates played at the 2020 CEV U20 European Championship, finishing ‘only’ seventh, but Michal managed to demonstrate some of his volleyball skills by making it to the top of the tournament’s statistical chart for spikers with a success rate of 54.85% in attack. Is he ready to play at the same high level at the ongoing World Championship?

“Yes, I am. I hope I will. I’ve changed my style, because I know I had big holes in reception and I wasn’t as good in serving as I am now,” he said. “I hope I will prove that I am one of the best players here.”

Last club season, Gierzot was a member of the men’s team of Polish powerhouse Jastrzebski Wegiel Jastrzebie-Zdroj who triumphed as national champions. He gained valuable experience at the highest possible level and even made his debut in the CEV Champions League.

“I met really good guys in my position and I learned a lot from my two coaches. I really developed myself and reached a higher level, and I hope that I will prove it this year.”

Any young hopeful in sport has idols, role models he looks up to. Michal is no exception.

“I really like Egor Kliuka’s play style. He reaches the ball very high. For sure, if I have to compare myself to someone, Egor Kliuka would be the best example,” he said. “I also really like Michal Kubiak for his character. He hustles like a lion, like a real monster on the court…”

Gierzot is about to reach an important milestone in his life. On the day after the U21 World Championship ends, he will celebrate his 20th birthday.

“I will surprise no one if I say that, for sure, if I am on that plane home to Poland, on my 20th birthday, with a gold medal around my neck, that will be the best feeling that I’ve had in my life.”

But it is just the short-term dream for the rising star…

“I dream of winning everything that I can win, to be the best player in the world,” he said. “Actually, you know what my dream is – to be a better Michal Gierzot every day.”

Michal Gierzot