Between 1964 and 1980 she participated in five Olympic Games, winning seven medals, three of them gold. She also broke six world records and is the only athlete (male or female) to have held a world record in the 100 m, 200 m and the 400 m events. She also won 10 medals in European Championships. Between 1965 and 1979 she gathered 26 national titles and set 38 records in the 100–400 m sprint and long jump.
At her first Olympics in Tokyo in 1964, she took a Silver medal in the Long Jump and 200 metres, and ran the second leg of the Gold medal winning 4 X 100 meter relay team.
She was a double sprint winner at the World Student Games in Budapest in 1965.
In 1966, at the European Athletics championships she won Gold in the long jump, 200 meters and 4 x 100 meter relay; and took a Silver in the 100 meter sprint.
At her second Olympics in Mexico, She won a bronze in the 100 meters, but failed to qualify for the Long Jump final. She recovered from that disappointment, to win the Gold medal in the 200 meters in a new World Record time. In the sprint relay the Polish team dropped the baton on the final exchange in the semi-final and finished last.
After giving birth to her son, in 1971 – she managed a bronze medal in the long jump at the European Championships in Helsinki. She would compete in the 3 events at the Munich Olympics in 1972, the 2 sprints and the long jump. She would come away with a bronze medal in the 200 meters.
In the 1974 season, she became the first woman to break the 50-second barrier for 400 metres, and she set a new world record of 22.21 s for 200 meters. At the European Championships in the Rome she won the sprint double of 100 meters and 200 meters, beating the favoured GDR sprinter Renate Stecher; and ran the anchor leg on the 4 x 100 meter relay team which took the bronze. She was ranked number 1 in the world in the 100, 200 and 400 m events in 1974.
She would win her final Olympic medal in Montreal in 1976, by winning the gold in the 400 metres in a world record time of 49.28. At the inaugural World Cup of Track and Field in 1977, she would win both 200 metres and 400 metres; beating both favoured East German runners Barbel Wockel and Marita Koch respectively. She would be ranked number 1 in the world for 200 m and 400 m in 1976 and 1977.
In her final appearance at the European Championships at 32 year of age, she managed to win a bronze in the 400 meters and the 4 x 400 meter relay.
She was ranked number 1 in the world 7 times in the 200 metres; 4 times in the 400 metres, and 2 times in the 100 metres; as well as 3 times in the long jump. Over-all, she was ranked 15 years in the top ten at 200 metres, also 4 times number 2, twice at number 3, which just leaves 2 years outside the top 3; (from 1964 to 1977 she was ranked in the top 3 – 200 metre runners in the world) a remarkable achievement. She was ranked 12 times in the 100 metres, 8 times in the long jump and 6 times in the 400 metres (which she took up in 1974).
In 1998, Szewińska became d a member of the International Olympic Committee. As of 2004, she is the head of the Polish Federation of Athletics.
On 3 August 2005, she was elected as the third woman to the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) Council during the first session of the 45th IAAF Congress in Helsinki.
She is a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and the IAAF Hall of Fame.
Irena Szewinska was the first woman to hold world records at 100m, 200m and 400m between 1968-1976:
100m – 11.1 (1965 & 1968).
200m – 22.58 (1968) & 22.21 (1974).
400m – 49.75 & 49.29 (both in 1976).
So here is Irena Szewinska’s Olympic impressive medal resume:
1964 Tokyo Olympics – Gold 4 x 100m, 43.6 WR
1964 Tokyo Olympics – Silver 200m
1964 Tokyo Olympics – Silver Long jump
1968 Mexico City Olympics – Gold 200m
1968 Mexico City Olympics – Bronze 100 m
1972 Munich Olympics – Bronze 200m
1976 Montreal Olympics – Gold 400m, 49.29 WR