Stella Walsh

The October 14 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this photograph of an Olympic sprinter:


Stella Walsh (1911-1980) turns out to be a very interesting and sadly tragic story. Her given name was Stanislawa Walasiewicz, and her family emigrated from Poland to the United States when she was three months old.

She qualified for the American Olympic team in 1928, but was not eligible to compete, as she did not have American citizenship and could not obtain it until she was 21. In 1930, she competed for Poland in the Women’s World Games, winning the gold medal in three events (after which she was photographed, as shown above).

Four years later, she won American championships in three events and was offered citizenship just prior to the 1932 Olympics. However, she chose to become a citizen of Poland, and won the gold medal in the 100 meter dash. In 1936, she finished second to Helen Stephens (who appeared in this blog here).

In 1947, she became an American citizen. In 1980, she was killed during an armed robbery in her home city of Cleveland. On her death, it was discovered that she had a Y chromosome and some features of both sexes. There is some debate over whether her track and field records should be erased.

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