Irena SzewiÅ„ska was one of the finest Olympic women athletes in history. She is the finest track and field athlete to come from Poland, and one of the most influential women in sports for the last twenty years, due to her influence in the IOC.
Stuart Weir wrote this piece in honor of one of the most amazing athletes in our sport, who died on the 29 June 2018.
She was so important to Poland that the President tweeted out a piece on Irina SzewiÅ„ska within hours of the announcement of her death, by her husband and coach, Januz SzewiÅ„ska. Irina SzewiÅ„ska was 72 at the time of her death.
A true legend
I’m not a person who takes selfies. However, when in a reception at London 2012 I realized that the lady walking towards me was none other than Irena Szewinska, I made an exception. When her death of cancer was announced in June this year, I remembered not only that meeting with her in 2012 but listening to BBC’s legendary sports commentator, David Coleman, waxing lyrical about her feats on the track in the 1960s and 1970s.
She represented Poland in 4 Olympics 1968-76 winning medals in all of them – 3 golds, 2 silvers and 2 bronze – in 100m, 200m, 400m, relay and long jump. She won gold in the 200m in Mexico City (1968) and in the 400m in Montreal (1976) and a relay gold in Tokyo (1964). In her first Olympics in 1964, aged just 18, she took silver in the 200m and long jump and gold in the 4 by 100m. Add to that 5 European outdoor and 2 European Indoor golds – there was no World Championship in her day. Including indoors, she was a gold medallist at all distances from 50m to 400m
She is the only athlete – male or female – to have held the world record at 100m, 200m and 400m. She won 26 national titles. Her first son was born on 1970 but two years later she was a medallist at her third Olympics.
After she retired she served as President of the Polish Athletic Association and was also an IOC member and an IAAF council member.
A truly special lady.