Tamara Press, a dominant Soviet shot-putter and discus thrower who gained three Olympic gold medals within the Nineteen Sixties however who was the main focus of hypothesis about her gender due to her physique, died on April 26. She was 83.
Her dying was introduced by the Russian Ministry of Sport, which didn’t specify the place she died or cite the trigger.
Press, who was 5-foot-11 and 225 kilos, started to draw worldwide discover in 1958, when she gained the gold medal within the discus and the bronze within the shot-put on the European Athletic Championships in Stockholm.
Extra success adopted. On the 1960 Summer season Olympics in Rome, she gained a gold medal within the shot-put and a silver within the discus. 4 years later, on the Summer season Olympics in Tokyo, she set Olympic information whereas successful gold medals in each occasions.
However Press and her sister, Irina — who gained gold medals within the 80-meter hurdles in Rome and within the pentathlon in Tokyo — acquired greater than glory from their athletic careers.
They heard merciless taunts about their measurement, a few of them from sportswriters who in contrast Tamara to a defensive deal with. She and Irina had been typically known as the “Press brothers.”
“I’m a champion, however you possibly can see I’m a lady,” Tamara Press advised The Related Press in 1964. “The truth that a woman is a sportswoman has nothing to do with femininity.”
Seven a long time later, a contentious debate continues in monitor and subject concerning the eligibility of intersex athletes — these born with intercourse traits that don’t conform to binary descriptions of female and male.
Caster Semenya, a two-time Olympic champion at 800 meters, has been difficult, thus far with out success, the foundations of World Athletics, monitor and subject’s governing physique. These guidelines require intersex athletes who establish as feminine to suppress their pure testosterone ranges beneath that of males earlier than with the ability to compete in ladies’s races from a quarter-mile to a mile.
World Athletics has acknowledged that the restrictions are discriminatory however nonetheless says they’re vital to supply a degree taking part in subject throughout competitors. Critics, together with the World Medical Affiliation and the United Nations Excessive Commissioner for Human Rights, have known as the foundations pointless and humiliating.
In 1966, when Press was 29, her profession (in addition to her sister’s) got here to a near-total finish once they determined to withdraw from the European Athletics Championships in Budapest.
It isn’t clear why Press determined to withdraw. Had she taken anabolic steroids to realize energy, endurance and bulk, she may need aroused suspicion, however she would have confronted little danger of being detected, as a result of drug testing was in its infancy in these days.
If she was intersex, Press may need feared failing a brand new take a look at instituted on the athletics championships: the so-called nude parade, which required ladies athletes to look earlier than a medical panel that will decide their eligibility.
“There was one thing completely different in regards to the Press sisters,” mentioned John Hoberman, a historian of doping in sports activities and the writer of “Testosterone Goals: Rejuvenation, Aphrodisia, Doping” (2005). He added that it was “not out of the query” that each issues had been true — that the sisters had been intersex and that in addition they used steroids.
All that Soviet officers would say in regards to the sisters’ absence from the meet is that they needed to keep at house to care for his or her sick mom.
Tamara Natanovna Press was born on Might 10, 1937, in Kharkov, Ukraine, and lived there till her household was evacuated to Samarkand, Uzbekistan, early in World Battle II. Her father was within the Soviet navy and died in battle in 1942. At 18, Tamara moved to Leningrad to coach below Viktor Aleksyev, a famend monitor and subject coach.
From 1959 to 1965, she set 11 world information, together with her private bests: 18.59 meters (or 60.9 toes) within the shot-put and 59.70 meters (195.9 toes) within the discus.
Following the Press sisters’ resolution to not compete in Budapest, Tamara Press stayed lively till 1967. At one in every of her final meets — the Moskow Spartakiad, an all-Soviet occasion that didn’t require gender testing — she gained the shot-put. She retired that yr.
Within the years after she stopped competing, Press labored as an engineer and a coach. In 1996 she labored to assist re-elect Boris Yeltsin as Russia’s president. She was additionally the vp of the Bodily Tradition and Well being Fund, a charity that helps promising Russian athletes, and the writer of a number of books, together with “The Value of Victory.”
In 2012, President Vladimir Putin wished Press a contented seventy fifth birthday, saying in a press release, “You earned the respect of opponents and the love of hundreds of thousands of followers.”
Details about her survivors was not instantly out there. Her sister died in 2004.
In 1996, because the Summer season Olympics had been happening in Atlanta, Press advised The Christian Science Monitor that her success within the 1960 and 1964 Video games “was a victory for our nation,” including, “Communism — that’s one other query.”
And he or she recalled that she was so targeted on the Tokyo Olympics that sooner or later she was unaware that one in every of her opponents had dropped the shot on her thigh.
“There was a lot pressure that I didn’t even discover,” she mentioned. “After the competitors I noticed a black mark on my leg and thought, ‘What’s this?’”