Pure poetry in the discus from record-breaker Konopacka

Women made their bow in the track and field events at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam, and the only throwing event turned out to be the discus.

Utterly dominant in the event was Polish athlete Halina Konopacka who looked like a champion from the very outset of the competition. Throwing from a basic circle carved out of the grass and sporting a trademark beret, Konopacka cruised through the qualifying round. The 21 starters were whittled down to six finalists with Konopacka’s 39.17m over 2.5m clear of her nearest challenger.

With a jaunty, loose throwing action, Konopacka was the clear favourite and she didn’t let her country down in the final which started later in the day. She was crowned Poland’s first Olympic champion and the first female discus champion when she reached a world record mark of 39.62m. It improved her own record mark by almost 50cms.

American Lilian Copeland, who would win the title in Los Angeles eight years later, finished in second place with 37.08m. A national heroine, she further endeared herself in her country’s heart by some remarkable achievements during the Second World War when she was instrumental in moving Polish gold and national treasures to France and safety. She became a writer and lived in the United States, where she died at the age of 88.