Irena Szewinska

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When I was growing up in the 1970’s Irena Szewinska was making history. She was setting records in athletics which, had she been a man, we would still be lauding today.

Usain Bolt is, rightly, celebrated for his domination of mens 100m and 200m. Irena Szewinska dominated at 100, 200 and 400m and is the only athlete to ever have held the world record in the 100m, the 200m and the 400m. Between 1964 and 1980 she took part in 5 Olympic Games, winning 3 gold and two silver medals. One of the silver medals, in Tokyo 1964, was in the long jump, further illustrating her incredible versatility.

A decade later, she became the first woman to break the 50-second barrier for 400 metres, and she set a new world record of 22.21 s for 200 metres.

In her final Olympics, Montreal 1976 , she won the gold medal in the 400 metres in a world record time of 49.28.

She was ranked number 1 in the world 7 times in the 200 metres; 4 times in the 400 metres, twice in the 100 metres and 3 times in the long jump

Irena was born in 1946 in Leningrad, her father was from Warsaw and Irena went on to represent his native Poland. She graduated in 1970 – while she was competing at the highest level, with and MSC in Economics.

She died in Warsaw in June 2018.

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