Halina Konopacka, the first Polish Olympic champion. She delighted the world

Halina Konopacka, the first Polish Olympic champion.  She delighted the world

“Golden moments of Polish Olympism” is a series that presents Poland's greatest successes at the Olympic Games. The first gold in history was won by Halina Konopacka.

After regaining independence, 72 gold medals during the Summer Olympic Games were won by Polish athletes. The first, historical one, is thanks to Halina Konopacka. In 1928, a Polish woman talented in many areas, not only related to sports, delighted the world. During the Olympic competition in Amsterdam, the discus throw specialist showed her rivals her place in the row in her first attempt.

Halina Konopacka – the first Olympic champion in the history of Poland

The first Polish gold medal athlete had everything to succeed. Konopacka came from a good home, where there was plenty of room for physical education. His brother Tadeusz, five years older, was a footballer for Polonia Warszawa, and also worked – as a member of the staff – with athletes. Initially, Halina mainly observed these men's activities, swallowing the bug to try her hand at sports competition. Interestingly, athletics was not her number one choice at all.

It started with skiing. There was also a weakness for tennis and basketball. Konopacka had unusual physical conditions for the beginning of the 20th century, measuring as much as 181 cm in height. The average average for women of that time was about 20 cm smaller. This did not stop her from pursuing another sporting passion, namely driving. And women's driving licenses were not obvious either.

Finally, in 1924, Konopacka won her first two Polish champion titles. She triumphed in the discus throw and shot put. Two years later (i.e. 1926) Konopacka set a world record in the first of the above-mentioned disciplines. The discus flew to a distance of 34.15 m. Additionally, in the same year, the Pole won the Women's World Games. It became clear that Konopacka was the favorite to win gold at the Amsterdam Olympics. Success so needed in independent Poland.

Miss Olympics, poet, heroine of World War II

Tuesday, July 31, 1928, Amsterdam. Ladies' discus throw competition. Konopacka enchanted the competition and delighted her from the very beginning. First try? Leadership position. Best throw? At a distance of 39.62 m, setting a new world record and the best Olympic result. It became clear that Dąbrowski's Mazurka would be performed on Dutch soil.

The Pole charmed in Amsterdam not only in terms of sports. Konopacka was chosen Miss Games. The Pole became a favorite in the country, even the famous Marshal Józef Piłsudski praised her success. It is worth emphasizing, however, that the Polish Olympic champion, regardless of the scale of her sports success, continued to develop on many levels. All the more impressive and becoming an example for other women. With your courage, talent and belief that Poland is in no way worse than other countries.

In 1929, Konopacka published a volume of poetry entitled “One day”. She also liked painting, and was the editor-in-chief of the sports magazine “Start”.

“They said I could only throw the discus and that I didn't have a soul. So I just wanted to prove that I am a woman, not some sports, mechanical robot, and that I have some poetry in me that I wanted to express even in throwing the discus back then. And it happened that I proved myself small with this book and I was very proud of it, and I still am, and I'm not ashamed of this – let's say – weakness,' admitted Konopacka, quoted in the book entitled “Sportsmen” by Krzysztof Szujecki.

In 1931, the Olympic champion from Amsterdam ended her sports career. She was as lightning-fast as she was impressive. Olympic gold, 27 Polish champion titles (from shot put, through pentathlon, ending with 4×100 and 4×200 m relays), as well as 23 national and three world records (here only in discus throw). These few key results still command great respect.

The lost gold medal and longing for Poland

Privately, at the beginning of her adult life, Konopacka started a relationship with Colonel Ignacy Matuszewski. A minister who was a great patriot and became famous, among others, for from the daring action of evacuating the gold of the Bank of Poland after the outbreak of World War II in September 1939. Konopacka accompanied her husband, driving one of the trucks that together transported over 80 tons of national property. Ultimately to France. Ultimately, however, the realities of war meant that she and her husband had to escape to another continent.

Interestingly, while traveling around the world during the war, Konopacka's Olympic gold medal went missing. Unfortunately, he was never to be found again.

The champion herself returned to skiing and playing tennis in exile. Konopacka settled in the United States. However, she returned to Poland with great sentiment. The mistress died in 1989, and a year later her ashes were buried at the Bródno Cemetery in Warsaw.

In November 2018, Andrzej Duda honored Halina Konopacka in a special way. The President of the Republic of Poland awarded the champion posthumously the highest Polish decoration, the Order of the White Eagle. Exactly on the centenary of Poland regaining independence.

The XXXIII Summer Olympic Games in Paris will start on July 26

The capital of France has already hosted the Summer Olympics twice in the history of Olympics. Paris hosted the most important sports event a very long time ago, in 1900 and 1924. The International Olympic Committee has decided that exactly one hundred years after the last time on Paris soil, the heart of France will again be the main arena for the summer games.

The slogan of the Olympic Games 2024 is: “Open Games.” From Wednesday, July 24 (opening ceremony on July 26) to Sunday, August 11, a total of 329 competitions in 32 sports will be held. A total of over 10,000 athletes will take part in the Olympic competition. Interestingly, in Paris there will be full equality of rights, exactly 50 percent of each participant at the Olympics.

The Polish national team won a total of 14 medals at the last Olympic competition, during the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo (held in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). This included four gold medals, five silver and five bronze medals. A total of 211 Polish representatives performed in the capital of Japan three years ago.

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