16 The Daily Telegraph Thursday 6 August 2020 ** Sport Final whistle ‘Stella the fella’ was one of the crueller headlines that did the rounds in a media frenzy Daniel Schofield The strange, tragic case of Stella Walsh T he 1936 Berlin Olympics will forever be associated with the feats of Jesse Owens, whose four gold medals mocked notions of Aryan supremacy. No less extraordinary but far less well documented was the final of the women’s 100 metres, that took place 84 years ago this week. Asked about beating Walsh, Stephens made the rivalry personal by replying, “Stella who?”. Walsh did not appreciate the remark but largely avoided competing against the upstart again until Berlin. She was merely delaying the inevitable. In front of 100,000 spectators in the Olympic Stadium, Stephens left Walsh in her dust. Stephens later recounted being congratulated by Hitler and other Nazi leaders on her Aryan looks. However, a rumour soon gained traction in the Polish press, potentially planted by Walsh, that Stephens was in fact a man, leading to what is believed to be the first gender inspection by the International Olympic Committee. Stephens was declared a woman and that might have been the end of the matter until a tragic incident 44 years later. Walking through her home city of Cleveland, Walsh was approached by two muggers brandishing guns. She fought back, but was shot and died in hospital clutching her 1932 Olympic ring. The coroner found that Walsh lacked a uterus and had a nonfunctioning, underdeveloped penis. She was posthumously diagnosed with a chromosomal disorder known as mosaicism. The coroner’s statement that “Socially, culturally, and legally, Stella Walsh was accepted as a female for 69 years. She lived and died as a female” did little to dampen the fire of the revelation that Walsh did not have female sex organs. “Stella the fella” was one of the crueller headlines that did the rounds in a media frenzy. There were questions about whether her gold and silver Olympic medals should be stripped, although the IOC ruled against this. When Walsh was born in 1911, there was little understanding of what being intersex constituted. It is likely that it would have been difficult to determine her sex at Polish-born Stanisława Walasiewicz, better known by her Americanised name Stella Walsh, was the defending champion. Contemporary press reports proclaimed her unbeatable. Yet the year before the Games, Walsh was defeated in a 50m dash by an American teenager, Helen Stephens, who also broke Walsh’s 100m world record that year. birth and her parents raised her as a girl. After moving to Ohio from Poland, she was bullied for her athletic build in school, being called “Bull Montana” after a contemporary wrestler. Yet she soon built popularity by winning athletic competitions. It is clear that she was aware of her abnormalities and she went to great lengths to avoid public changing rooms, yet that does not mean she was cheating. In her mind, she was a woman. Thanks to her burgeoning accomplishments, she was crowned “Queen of Cleveland” in a public vote to mark the opening of a new sports stadium in 1931. More than anything, she wanted to represent the United States at the following year’s Los Angeles Olympics, only the second Games at which women were allowed to compete in track and field events. She had applied for US citizenship, but her family lost their jobs in the Great Depression. The Polish government sensed an opportunity, offering her a job and education if she retained her nationality. Given athletes had to pay their own way to the Olympics, she had little choice but to accept, leading to accusations of betrayal from the American press. Those died away in time; she was voted the third-greatest female athlete of the 20th century by a poll of sportswriters in 1950 when she was winning pentathlon titles at the age of 39. She continued to enter herself into Olympic trials in 1956 and 1960. In 1975, she was entered into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame. All her life, Walsh craved acceptance as an athlete, an American and a woman. The tragedy is that much of that was taken away when she was murdered, and she was reduced to a punchline. Walsh’s legacy deserves far better. Athletic prowess: Stella Walsh (left) won a gold medal in the 100 metres at the 1932 Olympics and a silver medal at the 1936 Games Send us your views Our reader letters and emails column has returned. We would love to hear from you. Please send us your views on sport and our coverage to the Sports Editor, The Daily Telegraph, 111 Buckingham Palace Rd, SW1W 0DT. Or email sportletters@ telegraph.co.uk. Please include your postal address. We will publish the best each week. Jakobsen in induced coma after horror crash Cycling By Tom Cary Jumbo-Visma sprinter Dylan Groenewegen drift across the road in the final, downhill sprint into Katowice, edging Jakobsen into the barriers before the line. Jakobsen, 23, collided with an official after flying over the barriers head first. Groenewegen, who was subsequently disqualified, also fell after crossing the line. Cycling’s governing body the UCI condemned the “dangerous behaviour” of Groenewegen, adding that it was referring the matter to the Disciplinary Commission. Groenewegen was initially named the stage winner before being disqualified. The podium ceremony was cancelled and the stage results have not been released. 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