She was born Irina Kirzenstein in 1946 in a Leningrad refugee camp (her parents were Polish Jews).
Between 1964 and 1980, she participated in five Olympic Games, competing in five different events. These were the 100 m, the 200 m, the 400 m, the 4x100 m relay and the long jump! Irina won seven medals in all, three of them gold. She broke six world records and was the first woman to hold world records in the 100 m, 200 m and 400 m at the same time.
She first struck gold at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, at the age of 18. She came second in the 200 m and the long jump and was a member of the relay team that won a surprise gold for Poland. By the time the 1968 Mexico Games came around, Irina was married and a mother. This time, she won gold in the 200 m in which she set a new world record and bronze in the 100 m.
Just before the 1972 Games, Irina injured her ankle. Yet, she managed to win a bronze in the 200 m.
Her last great victory was achieved at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Competing against an 18-year-old German girl in the 400 m, 30-year-old Irina won by almost 10 metres, in a world record 49.28 seconds!
Little wonder then, that this master's degree holder in economics is called 'Queen of the Track' in her native Poland.