When I was 12 years old, I was fortunate enough to watch the 1976 Summer Olympics in my hometown of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
I remember Irena Szewinska of Poland winning the 400m, and Alberto Danger Juantorena winning the 400/800 double.
Little did I know at the time this was her 4th Olympiad! She had already competed in the 1964, 1968, 1972 Olympics (she would also compete in the 1980 Olympics)
Only Merlene Ottey has competed or qualified in 5 Olympics, but for 2 different countries. Carl Lewis also qualified for 5 Olympics (he came in 3rd in Long Jump at the 1980 USATF Trials). But I’ll leave King Carl out of this, since this post is dedicated to Greatest Female Sprinters.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee of the United States competed in 4 Olympics with this medal resume:
- Gold: long jump, 1988; heptathlon, 1988, 1992;
- Silver: heptathlon, 1984;
- Bronze: long jump, 1992, 1996
I would call Jackie the World’s Greatest Female Athlete, but Irena is the World’s Greatest Female Sprinter. She was the first woman to hold world records at 100m, 200m and 400m between 1968-1976
- 100m – 11.1, 1965 & 1968
- 200m – 22.58 in 1968 & 22.21 in 1974
- 400m – 49.75 & 49.29, 1976
So here is Irena Szewinska’s Olympic medal resume:
- 1964 Tokyo Olympics – Gold 4 x 100m, 43.6 WR
- 1964 Tokyo Olympics – Silver 200 m
- 1964 Tokyo Olympics – Silver Long jump
- 1968 Mexico City Olympics – Gold 200 m,
- 1968 Mexico City Olympics – Bronze 100 m
- 1972 Munich Olympics – Bronze 200 m
- 1976 Montreal Olympics – Gold 400 m, 49.29 WR
If you thought Szewinska was going to retire after her 400 meter Gold medal in her 4th Olympics, think again. In the 1977 World Cup, she defeated (at the time) little known Marita Koch from East Germany. Koch would rarely lose a race in her “prime”, so it’s great to see Szewinska dig deep in the last 100 to defeat her. Here is the video: