Poll was born in Managua,Nicaragua. Her parents were Germans and they settled in Nicaragua where Sylvia and her younger sister Claudia were born. After the 1972 Nicaragua earthquake 1972 earthquake of Managua and rising political tensions, Sylvia's parents decided to move south to Costa Rica.
Sylvia Poll is a famous backstroker and freestyle swimmer for Costa Rica, who won the silver medal in the Swimming at the 1988 Summer Olympics Women's 200 meter freestyle at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. Her silver medal was the first medal ever for a Costa Rican athlete.
At the 1986 Central American and Caribbean Games she set the Games Records in the women's 200 and 400 frees (2:02.80 and 4:17.98). Both records would last 20 years, until her sister Claudia bettered the times at the 2006 Games. Also at the '86 CACs, Silvia set the Games Record in the 100 m and 200 m backstroke (1:04.43, 2:19.32) that also stood until 2006.
Sylvia Poll is now a member of the ‘Champions for Peace’ club, a group of 54 famous elite athletes committed to serving peace in the world through sport, created by Peace and Sport, a Monaco-based international organization.