For the past 10 years, a Middletown firefighter/paramedic has been competing in what’s been described as “the toughest two minutes in sports.”
Pawel Mieczykowski said he became interested in competing in the Firefighter Combat Challenge about 10 years ago after he saw the event on ESPN.
The challenge is an intensive, timed agility course that requires firefighters to perform a number of tasks wearing full turnout gear, including masks and self-contained breathing apparatus tanks.
Mieczykowski, 50, went up against firefighters from across the nation and from around the world at the 3M Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge World Championship, and placed seventh in the 50-plus age group. More than 600 firefighters qualified for the event through various events around the nation, then had to qualify again when they arrived in late October at the event in Sacramento, Calif.
But only the 10 fastest times in each category were selected to compete for the top honors.
The events, in order, include:
- A stair climb with air pack up a five-story tower carrying a 42-pound hose to be placed in a box at the top.
- Hoisting a 42-pound hose to the top level and placing it in the box, then running back down on each step back to the ground. If the firefighter misses a step on the way down or loses control in hoisting the hose, a 2 second penalty is assessed for each infraction.
- The forcible entry challenge requiring the firefighter to use a 9 1/2-pound sledgehammer a 160-pound beam five feet on the Keiser sled. After the beam is moved, the sledgehammer has to be placed the platform.
- After running 140 feet, the firefighter takes a fully charged fire hose weighing 250 pounds and drags it 75 feet through a swinging door and puts out a small fire target.
- The final event is dragging a 175-pound "Rescue Randy" mannequin about 100 feet.
Mieczykowski’s time at the world championship was 1 minute, 56 seconds.
“I’m happy but I’m not completely satisfied,” he said.
His personal best is 1 minute, 47 seconds. He said the first challenge he participated in was 10 years ago in Milford where his time was 2 minutes, 37 seconds. However, Mieczykowski said his goal is to reach the podium in the world competition. In early October, he placed third in the national challenge held in Branson, Mo.
“You’re going as fast as you can for time and you’re running against yourself and against a competitor,” he said. “You’re looking to shave two to three seconds on the course each time you run it.”
He calls the competition a “love/hate” experience where he feels the pain of the competition that is tiring and exhausting but feels great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment at the end. He also enjoys the camaraderie and being with the family of competitors.
“It’s very stressful both mentally and physically,” Mieczykowski said. “But I don’t want to find myself unable to do my job or have difficulty doing my job. You need to be confident to save yourself and others.”
He continues to regularly compete in firefighter challenges where he can, all at his own expense and using his own gear. His competition helmet sports the colors of the Ohio State Buckeyes. He also said he’s looking for sponsors to help defray the registration, lodging and other travel costs in order to compete at the regional, national and international levels.
A native of Poland, he came to the U.S. about 30 years ago. A father of four, Mieczykowski has been a firefighter for the past 20 years and has been with the Middletown Division of Fire since March 2006.