Legendary Polish athlete passes away

Polish former athlete and sports activist Irena Kirszenstein-Szewińska died at 72.

The husband of the late athlete said that she died on Friday evening at a hospital in Warsaw. He added that his wife was struggling with illness for some time, but had been feeling better recently.

Mrs Szewińska was both a sprinter and a long jumper. She won seven Olympic (three gold, two silver, and two bronze) and 13 European Championships medals. She broke eight individual world records and two relay team records.

She became famous after the Olympic Games 1964 in Tokyo when at the young age of 18 she won silver medals in the 200 meters and long jump events as well as winning the gold medal in the sprint relay.

Mrs Szewińska also won medals at the following three Olympic Games – Mexico City 1968, Munich 1972 and Montreal 1976. In Canada, she also beat the world record for the 400 meters. She finished with a time of 49.29 seconds and was the first woman to run that distance in less than 50 seconds. Her time still stands as the Polish record.

Her last Olympic Games was in 1980 when the event was held in Moscow.

After the end of her athlete career, she was involved in many organizations associated with sport. From 1997 to 2009 she was the president of the Polish Athletics Association, she was also the deputy president of Polish Olympics Committee and a member of International Olympics Committee.

In April 2016 she received the Order of the White Eagle, the highest Polish order.