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The Most Famous

ATHLETES from Poland

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This page contains a list of the greatest Polish Athletes. The pantheon dataset contains 3,059 Athletes, 90 of which were born in Poland. This makes Poland the birth place of the 11th most number of Athletes behind Kenya and Finland.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Polish Athletes of all time. This list of famous Polish Athletes is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Polish Athletes.

Photo of Stanisława Walasiewicz

1. Stanisława Walasiewicz (1911 - 1980)

With an HPI of 59.29, Stanisława Walasiewicz is the most famous Polish Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 30 different languages on wikipedia.

Stanisława Walasiewicz (3 April 1911 – 4 December 1980), also known as Stefania Walasiewicz, and Stella Walsh, was a Polish-American track and field athlete, who became a women's Olympic champion in the 100 metres. Born in Poland and raised in the United States, she became an American citizen in 1947.

Photo of Hans Woellke

2. Hans Woellke (1911 - 1943)

With an HPI of 55.43, Hans Woellke is the 2nd most famous Polish Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.

Hans-Otto Woellke (18 February 1911 – 22 March 1943) was a German shot putter, who won a gold medal at the 1936 Summer Olympics and a bronze medal at the 1938 European Championships.Woellke served with the Order Police. During World War II, he was a captain in the Schutzmannschaft Battalion 118 attached to a regiment in the Waffen-SS. He was killed by partisans on 22 March 1943 near Khatyn village, after which a retaliatory mass killing of civilians took place by Schutzmannschaft and Waffen-SS soldiers.

Photo of Gustav Flatow

3. Gustav Flatow (1875 - 1945)

With an HPI of 54.60, Gustav Flatow is the 3rd most famous Polish Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 24 different languages.

Gustav Felix Flatow (7 January 1875 – 29 January 1945) was a German gymnast. He competed at the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens and at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris. Flatow was Jewish, and was born in Berent, West Prussia. In 1892, he moved to Berlin.

Photo of Myer Prinstein

4. Myer Prinstein (1878 - 1925)

With an HPI of 54.11, Myer Prinstein is the 4th most famous Polish Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.

Myer (or Meyer) Prinstein (born Mejer Prinsztejn, December 22, 1878 – March 10, 1925) was a Polish American track and field athlete who held the world record for the long jump in 1900 and won four gold medals in three Olympic Games for the long jump and triple jump. He was a member of the Irish American Athletic Club in Queens, New York. A 1902 law graduate and track team captain for Syracuse University, after college he became a New York real estate lawyer and businessman while living in Jamaica Plains, Queens. To date, he is the only Olympic track athlete to win both the triple and long jump in the same Olympics, earning the distinction in St. Louis in 1904.

Photo of Ewa Kłobukowska

5. Ewa Kłobukowska (1946 - )

With an HPI of 52.56, Ewa Kłobukowska is the 5th most famous Polish Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 28 different languages.

Ewa Janina Kłobukowska (born 1 October 1946) is a Polish former sprinter. She competed at the 1964 Olympics in the 4×100 m relay and 100 m sprint and won a gold and a bronze medal, respectively. She also won two gold and one silver medal at the 1966 European Athletics Championships. Kłobukowska set three world records, one in the 100 m (11.1 s, 9 July 1965 in Prague) and two in the 4×100 m relay (44.2 s, 13 September 1964, Łódź and 43.6 s, 21 October 1964, Tokyo). Kłobukowska was at one point considered to be the fastest woman in the world. The American Press made a statement, saying that nobody would beat Kłobukowska for the next 7–8 years following a race in Prague. Despite these successes and laurels, her records were annulled by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) after a gender identification test in 1967 wrongly labeled her as not female. The test procedures were later found to be inadequate.

Photo of Janusz Kusociński

6. Janusz Kusociński (1907 - 1940)

With an HPI of 50.70, Janusz Kusociński is the 6th most famous Polish Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 28 different languages.

Janusz Tadeusz Kusociński (15 January 1907 – 21 June 1940) was a Polish athlete, winner in the 10,000 meters event at the 1932 Summer Olympics.

Photo of Gerhard Stöck

7. Gerhard Stöck (1911 - 1985)

With an HPI of 49.21, Gerhard Stöck is the 7th most famous Polish Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 19 different languages.

Gerhard Karl Eduard Stöck (28 July 1911 – 29 March 1985) was a German athlete. He won the gold medal in the javelin throw event at the 1936 Summer Olympics and placed third in the shot put. Stöck was the son of a butcher. He was born in Kaiserswalde in 1911, a small village now located in Poland, and grew up in the Province of Posen. He was a versatile athlete and, besides throwing events, competed in decathlon and won the javelin and pentathlon events at the 1935 World Student Games. Domestically, he won the German javelin title in 1938 and placed second in 1933–1947. He never won the German shot put title, due to a strong competition from Hans Woellke, and placed second four times. At the 1938 European Championships, Stöck won a silver medal in the shot put, surprisingly beating Woellke, but placed only seventh in the javelin throw.Stöck had a degree in philology and, since 1938, worked as a teacher. Earlier in 1933, he became a member of the Nazi paramilitary organization, Sturmabteilung, and, in 1944, was promoted to Sturmbannführer. After World War II, he continued competing until the early 1950s and then worked as a sports administrator. He served as Chef de Mission of the Unified German Olympic team in 1956 and 1960 and as deputy chef de mission in 1964. His past military activity was raised only after his death in 1985. Among other things, it was found that he falsified his birth year from 1911 to 1910.Stöck was married and raised an athletic family. His daughter, Jutta Stöck, became an Olympic sprinter, while his son-in-law, Peter Hertel, was a 1966 world champion in rowing. His grandson, Ole Hertel, was a competitive shot putter and discus thrower.In the lead up to Operation Uranus, Stöck was the one who reported an expected Soviet attack that day to General Schmidt's division, this attack was the first of the operation. The message was not passed on to Schmidt however as it was thought to be another false alarm. This lack of early response is thought to have contributed to the Soviet success of Operation Uranus.

Photo of Zbigniew Pietrzykowski

8. Zbigniew Pietrzykowski (1934 - 2014)

With an HPI of 49.05, Zbigniew Pietrzykowski is the 8th most famous Polish Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 16 different languages.

Zbigniew Jan Pietrzykowski (4 October 1934 – 19 May 2014) was a Polish boxer.He took part in three Olympic Games, each time winning a medal. He won a bronze medal at Melbourne 1956 in the light middleweight division, after losing in the semi-final to Hungarian László Papp. Four years later in Rome, he reached the final of the light heavyweight division, where he lost to Cassius Clay, who was 7 years younger. Finally, he won a bronze medal in Tokyo in 1964, in the light heavyweight division (defeated by Soviet Aleksei Kiselyov). He participated five times at the European Amateur Boxing Championships and won five medals: a bronze in the light middleweight division in Warsaw 1953, and then four gold medals: in West Berlin (1955) in the light middleweight division, in Prague (1957) in the middleweight division, in Lucerne (1959), and in Moscow (1963) in the light heavyweight division. He won the championship of Poland 11 times: in the light middleweight division in 1954, 1955 and 1956, in the middleweight division in 1957 and in the light heavyweight division in 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1965. Pietrzykowski was also a champion in relation to his performances in the national Polish team fighting 44 bouts, winning 42 of them and losing twice. In his career, he fought 350 bouts winning 334 of them, drawing 2 and losing 14. Pietrzykowski was the first winner of the Aleksander Reksza Boxing Award in 1986.

Photo of Ursula Happe

9. Ursula Happe (1926 - 2021)

With an HPI of 48.29, Ursula Happe is the 9th most famous Polish Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Ursula Happe (German pronunciation: [ˈʊʁzula ˈhapə] ; 20 October 1926 – 26 March 2021) was a German swimmer and Olympic champion. She competed at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, where she won the gold medal in 200 m breaststroke. She also competed in the women's 200 metre breaststroke at the 1952 Summer Olympics. Happe died in Dortmund on 26 March 2021 at the age of 94.Her son Thomas Happe is a former international handball player for West Germany.

Photo of Józef Szmidt

10. Józef Szmidt (1935 - )

With an HPI of 47.73, Józef Szmidt is the 10th most famous Polish Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 23 different languages.

Józef Szmidt (born 28 March 1935 as Josef Schmidt) is a former Polish athlete. He was born in Miechowitz, Beuthen, Province of Upper Silesia, Germany. With a jump of 17.03m in 1960, Szmidt was the first triple jumper to reach 17 metres.

Pantheon has 90 people classified as athletes born between 1875 and 1998. Of these 90, 58 (64.44%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living athletes include Ewa Kłobukowska, Józef Szmidt, and Halina Górecka. The most famous deceased athletes include Stanisława Walasiewicz, Hans Woellke, and Gustav Flatow. As of April 2022, 26 new athletes have been added to Pantheon including Zbigniew Pietrzykowski, Ursula Happe, and Walter Bathe.

Living Athletes

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Deceased Athletes

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Newly Added Athletes (2022)

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Which Athletes were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Athletes since 1700.