Golden Irena. On that day, the legend of Polish athletics was born

How many biographies can be made of one character? The biography of Irena Szewińska offers so much material that it is impossible to fit it into one thick book. She started writing her unique story when she was a girl. It was then that her athletics turned her head, in which she turned out to be a real champion. Did she know in her teens that she could go that far? Did the coaches who saw her believe that?

My mother was from Kiev, my father from Warsaw, she was born in St. Petersburg. A year later, little Irenka moved with her parents to the capital. Warsaw became her home and the place where her athletic career began.

At that time, still as Irena Kirszenstein, she did not enter the sports world so shyly at the age of 14. From the very beginning, she stood out from her peers in this area. Tall, slender and with great enthusiasm for work, she began to achieve her first successes.

The talent developed during school years quickly became noticeable. The teenage athlete first showed off the fitness tests and moments later she started for Polonia Warszawa, training under the guidance of Jan Kopyto.

The young athlete quickly entered the list of national records in her age category. Among other things, she set the youth record in the high jump and then won her first medals at the national championship.

It will not be an exaggeration to call Szewińska a versatile sportswoman. As an 18-year-old at a championship, she was able to show her superiority in competitions so different from each other.

This was the case at the European Junior Games in Warsaw, when three gold medals were found on her neck – in the long jump, 200 m running and 4×100 m distance running.

On the threshold of adulthood, young Irena was already good enough to receive the most important ticket for an athlete – a nomination for the Olympics.

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During her professional career, Szewińska won no fewer than seven Olympic medals, three of which were at her first Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964.

Individually, the Polish representative won two silver medals – in the 200 m and in the long jump. With her teammates, she won gold for herself and at the same time broke the world record in the 4×100 m relay.

The Olympic dream did not end four years later either. The self-titled and more mature athlete from Mexico took the coveted individual gold in the 200m run and a bronze disc from the competition over twice the distance. His golden run became famous twice thanks to the world record (22.58).

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A year after the Olympics in Mexico, the Olympic champion opted for motherhood. For this reason, she gave up on the season and returned for good in 1971.

As a young mother, she continued to collect medals and successes.

She won the Olympics in Munich in 1972 (bronze in 200 m) and in Montreal in 1976, where she appeared in 400 m. The result of 49.29, which she achieved then, was a new world record for the distance of one stadium round . This time remains a Polish record to this day.

It is impossible to list all of Szewińska’s successes in one breath. The Polish woman with the title has excelled in the athletics world for years. In addition to seven Olympic medals, she won ten medals of the European Championship, including five zlotys. In Poland she was a real sports star. This is evident from the first four places in the prestigious “Przegląd Sportowy” poll.

Despite years of hard work in training, Szewińska was not tired of sports. After she retired from her career in 1980, she decided to focus on working in sports, but from a different angle. She also became a mother for the second time.

Her extensive experience first led her to the structures of the Polish Athletics Association. Later she was associated with World Athletics, European Athletics, the Polish Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee.

She struggled with cancer for a long time, but at the same time was still active in the sports environment. She passed away in June 2018.

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