Stanisława Walasiewicz

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Stanisława Walasiewicz, also known as Stefania Walasiewicz,[1] Stanisława Walasiewiczówna (see Polish name) and Stella Walsh (3 April 1911 – 4 December 1980) was a Polish athlete, who became a women's Olympic champion. It was later learned that Walasiewicz had ambiguous genitalia and could not easily be identified as either biologically male or female.

Contents

Background

Walasiewicz was born on 3 April 1911[2] in Wierzchownia (now in Brodnica County), Congress Poland. Her family emigrated to the United States when she was only three months old. Her father, Julian Walasiewicz, settled in Cleveland, where he found a job as a steel mill worker.[3] Her family called her Stasia, a common Polish diminutive of her Christian name, which later gave birth to the American version of her name, Stella.[3]

Athletics career

She started her athletic career in a public school in Cleveland. Fast and agile, in 1927 she easily won the competition for a place in the American Olympic team started by the Cleveland Press newspaper. However, Walasiewicz was not an American citizen and could not obtain citizenship under the age of 21.[3] The success of Halina Konopacka, a Polish athlete who won gold in the discus throw at the 1928 Summer Olympics, inspired Walasiewicz to join the local branch of Sokół, a Polish sports and patriotic organization active among the Polish diaspora. During the Pan-Slavic Slet of Sokół movement in Poznań, she scored her first major international victories. She won five gold medals: in running for 60, 100, 200 and 400 metres, as well as long jump.[3] She was asked to stay in Poland and join the Polish national athletic team; she also continued to run in various American challenges and games.

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