She was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1946 to a Jewish family as Irena Kirszenstein. Died at the age of 72. Her father, Jakub Gustaw Kirszenstein, came from Warsaw, and her mother, Eugenia, from Kiev. A year after the birth of their daughter, the family moved to Warsaw.
She started her athletic training at the age of 14 in the colours of Polonia Warszawa. Szewińska’s talent was quickly noticed, and she started to be successful already as a teenager. At the age of 18, she took part in the European Junior Games in Warsaw, winning her first gold medals. A month later, at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, she won two silver medals and gold in the sprint relay. Her career flourished. She missed only one summer season in 1969 due to pregnancy and the birth of her son. Soon after, she returned to sports.
She won a total of seven Olympic medals, and broke ten world records. She is in the Guinness Book of Records as the only one who won medals at the Olympics in five track and field events. After finishing her career, she was active in national and international sports organisations. She was one of the most successful Polish athletes and the greatest female athletes in history. She was also a heroine of Jewish sports. On the occasion of the next Maccabiad in Netanya, in July 1981, she was included in the newly created Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
“She won a total of seven Olympic medals, and broke ten world records. She is in the Guinness Book of Records as the only one who won medals at the Olympics in five track and field events.”
“I think I took 75% of my chances. I’m satisfied that I’m in the Guinness Book of Records as the only female athlete to have won medals at the Olympics in five different competitions – 100, 200 and 400 m, 4×100 m relay and a jump away.”