When it comes to sport, Sebastian Kulczyk is a self-confessed addict, not just as a passion but also as a source of inspiration. An avid age-group triathlete who has done a score of 70.3’s as well as the full iron distance, he loves the challenge, the release, and the optimistic outlook that sport gives him.
“I would describe myself as an extremely optimistic person,” he says. “I see everything in bright colours and I would love the world around me to be exactly the same, but to do so you have to start from the beginning as a little kid. One of the ways that will help you do this is sport.”
This led him to create the Pho3nix Foundation, helping children around the world to engage in sport and giving young sports champions a chance to develop professionally.
Now, just under two years later, the Pho3nix Foundation is supporting the groundbreaking, limit-defying Sub7 and Sub8 Projects.
Kulczyk knows that to take on an iron distance one has to be mentally strong. To do it as a professional is a deeply different game from doing it recreationally. But to attempt to go Sub7 and Sub8? That is something totally unique.
“From my perspective it’s unreal. It’s something that a normal person, even one quite physically active, would describe as totally impossible – not for humans. But at the same time I really believe they can do it. Even if they don’t, I think it’s going to be an amazing attempt in itself. Amazing proof that we should try, and simply by trying we’re already proving to the world but also to ourselves that there’s nothing impossible.”
The Sub7 and Sub8 Project is the brainchild of four-time triathlon world champion Chris McCormack, who Kulczyk calls the godfather of the project. “Chris understands the whole discipline better than anyone else and I love listening to his ideas. I’m happy that there are athletes out there who are ready to face the challenge. They put on the line not only beating the iron distance world record but also competing against each other and trying to prove to one another who’s better – because whoever wins will be remembered.”
Kulczyk is no stranger to investment and the risks that accompany it. As one of Poland’s top young entrepreneurs and the scion of “Poland’s richest man” the late Jan Kulczyk, he runs family-owned Kulczyk Investments, venture capital fund Manta Ray, and start-up accelerator InCredibles. With the Pho3nix Foundation and its support of projects like Sub7 and Sub8, Kulczyk sees no downside.
“We’re living in a time where getting people’s attention is very difficult and if you want to reach out to many kids around the world, we need to be active also in the media in a way that we will be seen and noticed. That’s why Pho3nix special projects like Sub7 and Sub8 will help us get global attention, and become viral. These are events that will help us promote the movement.”
The Pho3nix Foundation aims through sport to give underprivileged children a chance to fulfil their dreams and the opportunity to “rise from the ashes,” like the mythical phoenix after which the foundation is named.
It also runs a range of educational and social initiatives to promote physical activity among children and young people. The most recent one was the ‘Trisolation’ Challenge in partnership with the Ciech Tri Tour 2020. With the Pho3nix Foundation pledging one Polish zloty per kilometre, over a thousand participants collectively logged one million kilometres virtually for a total donation of one million Zloty (nearly USD$260,000) for the expansion of a children’s hospital in Poznań.
“I’ve been extremely lucky to be born from amazing parents who were successful in their business career. Today, I’m trying to continue their legacy and trying to do my best in the business field, but I also feel like I have an obligation to give back,” Kulczyk reveals.
“I’ve realised at some point how much support sports gives me and that’s why I decided it would become a big part of my life. I think that I was extremely lucky because as a kid I had some amazing support from my parents. But I’m fully aware that there’s millions of kids around the globe that don’t have that support.”
Ultimately, Kulczyk aims to expand the Pho3nix Foundation’s involvement beyond triathlon. “Being active means doing any movement, whether it’s running or swimming or rowing, or even bowling. We want to show that any movement is good, any physical activity is good. I think that we’re living in times where it would be amazing for kids to leave the computers aside and go back to what is normal and natural for us – natural movement and interaction with others that will improve not only the physical, but also their emotional and mental skills.”
For Kulczyk, sport is a metaphor for life and teaches values that apply even away from the playing field. “If you work hard, if you have a dream, and if you commit to something, you can really achieve it even if it’s not sports, even if it’s something else.”