Has a transgendered Pole ever won an Olympic medal?

Yes. At at least one transgendered Pole, the renowned sprinter Stella Walsh, won gold.

Born Stanislawa Walasiewiczowna in Wierchownen, Poland, Walsh emigrated as a child to America where she competed in track and field for her Cleveland high school. During the 30s and 40s, she dominated women’s track and field events breaking world records, taking dozens of collegiate titles and winning Olympic gold at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles while competing for her native Poland.

Walsh was shot dead during an attempted robbery attempt in 1981. An autopsy report revealed that the 69-year-old had male sex organs. The coroner’s final report showed that Walsh had both male chromosomes and ” incomplete chromosomes bearing both male and female characteristics,” according to The New York Times.

Ironically, Walsh accused another sprinter, American Helen Stephens, of being a man after Stephens beat Walsh in the 100-meter dash in the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin. Stephens, a six-foot-tall Iowan, was forced by Olympic officials to submit to gender verification. They found that Stephens was, as advertised, a woman.

Walsh was hardly alone in bending genders at Olympic Games. German high-jumper Hermann Ratjen competed alongside Walsh in the Berlin Olympics as “Dora.” Ratjen did not have both chromosomes, he simply bound his genitals to disguise his sex. Nonetheless, he failed to medal.

After joining Olympic competition in 1952, the USSR began fielding a suspicious number of world-breaking female athletes in international competitions. Two sisters, Tamara and Irina Press, led the Soviet charge. The pair combined to win a total of five Olympic gold medals and break 26 world records in the hurdles and shot put respectively. Their dominating performances raised eyebrows, and soon skeptics were calling the Ukrainian-born sisters, “the Press Brothers.” By 1964, the International Olympic Committee suspected something was amiss and began conducting mandatory gender verification of all athletes. Shortly after testing was introduced, the Press sisters, who had won five Olympic medals, infamously disappeared from international competition.

Critics, though, charged that the gender testing was unfair and unnecessary. Most genetic variations, doctors argued, do not provide an unfair advantage. The IOC suspended the practice in 1999, and in 2004 it drew up guidelines for the inclusion of transsexual athletes in the games.


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