Konopacka at the 1928 Olympics
|Born||26 February 1900
Rawa Mazowiecka, Russian Empire
|Died||28 January 1989 (aged 88)
Daytona Beach, Florida, United States
|Alma mater||Warsaw University|
|Height||180 cm (5 ft 11 in)|
|Weight||65 kg (143 lb)|
|Event(s)||Discus throw, javelin throw, shot put|
|Achievements and titles|
|Personal best(s)||DT – 39.62 m (1928)
JT – 34.83 m (1930)
SP – 9.96 m (1925)
Halina Konopacka (26 February 1900 – 28 January 1989) was a Polish athlete. She won the discus throw event at the 1928 Summer Olympics, breaking her own world record and becoming the first Polish Olympic champion. After retiring from athletics she became a writer and poet. She immigrated to the United States after World War II and died there.
Konopacka was born in Rawa Mazowiecka, Russian Empire, and grew up in Warsaw, where she trained in horse riding, swimming and skating. Her whole family also played tennis, including father Jakub, sister Czesława and brother Tadeusz. While studying at the Faculty of Philology of the Warsaw University she also took up skiing and athletics, but soon abandoned winter sports because the training facilities were too far from her home. In 1926 she set her first world record in the discus throw, after only a few months of training, which followed by two more records in 1927 and 1928.
Konopacka had dark skin and brown eyes owing to her Tatar ancestors. She always wore a red beret while competing, and had a model-like body shape, for which she was nicknamed "Miss Olympia". In 1928 she married Ignacy Matuszewski, the treasury secretary of Poland. She retired from athletics in 1931, but continued to do sports recreationally, including skiing, tennis and car races, and was listed as one of the best Polish tennis players until 1937. She was a guest of honor at both the 1936 Winter and Summer Olympics, and a member of the Polish Olympic Committee in 1938–1939. Being a well-educated woman fluent in three foreign languages, she engaged in writing. She wrote her first book of poetry Któregoś dnia (Some Day) back in 1929, and later published her poems in the literary magazine of the Skamander group and in the Wiadomości Literackie, the premier literary periodical of the interbellum Poland, earning recognition of established writers such as Mieczysław Grydzewski, Kazimierz Wierzyński and Antoni Słonimski. According to professor Anna Nasiłowska, Konopacka's works were valued for their feminist approach in analyzing the relationship between the man and the woman, and for their reminiscences of youth and the treatment of the topic of jealousy.
In September 1939, at the onset of World War II, she helped her husband move the gold of the Polish National Bank to France to finance the Polish government-in-exile. After France surrendered to Germany in June 1940, the couple immigrated to the United States, arriving there through Spain, Portugal and Brazil in September 1941. Her husband suddenly died in New York in 1946, after which Konopacka remarried (to George Szczerbinski in 1949), founded a skiing school near New York, designed clothing and ran a boutique shop. After her second husband died in 1959, she moved from New York to Florida, where in 1960 she graduated from an art college and became a painter. She mostly painted flowers under the alias Helen George. She died in 1989 and the same year was awarded the Silver Cross of Merit by the Polish government. Her ashes were buried in her parents' grave at the Bródno Cemetery in Warsaw.
- Halina Konopacka. sports-reference.com
- Halina Konopacka (neé Matuszewska, Szczerbinska). trackfield.brinkster.net
- Konopacka – Matuszewska – Szczerbińska Halina – właściwie Leonarda Kazimiera. Polish Olympic Committee
- Witold Malesa, "Silna ręka i miękkie serce", a Polish Radio programme (see online).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Halina Konopacka.|
- Karol Wiktor Zawodziński, "Poezje Konopackiej" (The Verses of Konopacka); in id., Wśród poetów, Cracow, Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1964, pages 306–308, and passim.
|Women's discus world record holder
23 May 1926 – 22 August 1926
|Women's discus world record holder
4 September 1927 – 15 May 1932