In 1997, after being crowned weightlifting world champions, Aniela and Jerzy Gregorek were dubbed “The Golden Couple” by their students at a Venice Beach Gold’s Gym.
Aniela’s introduction to weightlifting and her journey to attaining world-champion status began in 1992, when she learned that Koszalin, Poland, would be the host of the annual world championships in 1997. It took a bit of convincing, but Aniela recruited her husband to be her coach.
As active members of Poland’s Solidarity movement, the couple emigrated as political refugees to the U.S. in 1986. Returning as master level weightlifting competitors to their native land became their dream.
The 1997 championship venue was a two-hour train ride from Stargard, Poland, where the two were raised. The locale heightened the sense of excitement, as family and friends gathered together as the Gregorek’s personal cheering section.
In Koszalin, the 101-pound Aniela matched her world-championship lifts from the previous year by successfully lifting a 90-pound snatch and a 125-pound clean and jerk. Jerzy, at 132 pounds, beat his silver medal winning performance in 1996 with a 200-pound snatch and 250-pound clean and jerk.
“In Poland when I won the championship and stood as an American, it was very strange,” Jerzy said. “But we had a very good time.”
The world championships return to Poland on Sept. 18, where Aniela will attempt to defend the gold medal that she won for her class in Sydney, Australia, last year.
Back home in Woodside, where the couple has lived since 2004 when Aniela was pregnant with daughter Natalie, a meticulously designed backyard training campus amid gardens and fountains serves as home for their coaching system — Happy Body.
“The program is synergy between how to eat, how to exercise and how to relax to release daily stress,” Aniela said. “We call ourselves lifestyle mentors.”
Married since 1978, Jerzy, 56, and Aniela, 51, are shining proof that youthfulness, a primary theme of “The Happy Body,” — a book published earlier this year — is a genuine benefit of their educational system. Both could easily pass for 10 years younger.
You have to be wise when you age,” Jerzy said. “When you’re 35 and 40, deterioration of the body sets in, and we have to nurture the body. If we do, we can keep the youthfulness for a long time, into our 80s and 90s.”
For this golden couple, their golden years will likely be spent adding more world championships to their résumé while guiding their students to maintaining healthy, fit and youthful lives.
World champs: Aniela has won five weightlifting world titles; while Jerzy has won four
Founders: In 2000, the couple launched UCLA’s weightlifting team and they continue to serve as its coaches
Meet the authors: Aniela and Jerzy will appear at the Woodside Public Library on Aug. 28 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. with their book “The Happy Body”