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“They are not sisters, but brothers!” Were the Soviet champions Tamara and Irina Press men?

Date: June 18, 2024 Time: 11:15:42

When Russian tennis leader Shamil Tarpishchev called sisters Venus and Serena Williams the offensive word “sisters” was already commonplace. Moreover, in fact, the first sensitive gender issue in women’s sports was raised back in the 50s of the last century, when world athletics was introduced to the names of Soviet athletes Tamara and Irina Press.

Today elite sport is literally full of scandals about the gender of athletes. Suffice it to recall the noisy process of determining the sex of the South African runner Caster Semenya, who was allowed to start or was removed from the sport. The fact is that before all suspicions were only whispered in closed circles and they did not take dirty laundry out of the hut. The first case of this type dates back to the 1930s in Germany, when the athlete Dora Ratjen came to light, in the midst of a long history with almost criminal overtones. But then everything turned out to be more banal: a man posed as a woman, relying on external factors.

Photo Source: Getty Images

The Press Sisters are a unique phenomenon in Soviet and world sports. Tamara and Irina were born into an ordinary family in Kharkov. My father died during the Great Patriotic War, my mother was an ordinary cashier in a store. During the war years, the women were evacuated to sunny Samarkand, where the future stars of the “Queen of Sports” spent their childhood. Already from a very young age, both sisters were not distinguished by the most harmonious muscular development. Some men would dream of having similar data. However, the girls competed exclusively in female categories.

It is not necessary to write about the fact that they had a significant advantage over their rivals. In school physical education lessons, the eldest Tamara was out of competition, surpassing all standards, while she differed from her peers in incredible endurance. So she caught the eye of coach Vladimir Bessekernykh, who saw great potential in the schoolgirl, and advised him, given the student’s size, to try her hand at the discus and shot put. After a short time, Tamara began to endure rivals in all junior tournaments.

Photo Source: Getty Images

Inspired by the successes of her older sister, the smaller-boned Irina also entered athletics. But there was no time to pull and push heavy objects. Her mentor, Joseph Kapustyansky, assigned Irina to career disciplines. Later, she Irina will continue to try her hand at the shot put, but within the framework of the pentathlon competition. The results will be good, but of course not the same as Tamara’s older sister. At some point in Samarkand, the sisters obviously got bored, because there was no movement forward and they could only achieve better results by moving to a bigger city. The girls’ coaches released them on bail to Leningrad’s mentor Viktor Alekseev.

In 1960, the girls went to their first Olympic Games in Rome. And immediately a triumph: two gold medals and one silver, and Tamara Press took the gold in the shot put and the silver in the discus throw. Irina also reached the highest level in the 80 meter hurdles. Four years later, in Tokyo, Tamara had already won two gold medals in their disciplines, while Irina was the first in the pentathlon, and with a new world record, which remained “eternal” because the scoring rules have changed.

Photo source: RIA Novosti

The other side of these medals was that scandals in world sports had already begun, related to doubts about the gender indicators of some women. The foreign press was especially furious about this, which shamelessly called the Press sisters “sisters”. True, it was all baseless. But the foreign media did not stop the persecution. At press conferences, Tamara and Irina were literally bombarded with tactless questions about their physique.

Photo Source: Getty Images

When the situation with a sensitive issue began to get out of control, the IOC decided to introduce a mandatory gender test. Before the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968, Soviet athletes unexpectedly refused to participate in any competition, which caused a huge wave of rumors and suspicion. Among foreign sports doctors, there was even an opinion that the Press sisters underwent a sex change operation in childhood. The assumption was crazy, but this nonsense was picked up by the entire Western press, despite the fact that in the 30s, when Tamara and Irina were born, in the USSR and in the world they hardly had the ability to perform such operations. . The Soviet side insisted that the Press sisters were simply tired of the injuries.

The assumption of the doubt of the femininity of the sisters has become even more entrenched in society due to the fact that neither Tamara nor Irina started families, and their personal lives have remained secret to this day. Tamara and Irina Press, after leaving the sport, worked almost the rest of their lives in sports federations. Tamara died in 2021, Irina in 2004. The sisters took the main secret of Soviet sports with them to the grave. Don’t get caught though-he’s not a thief.

* This website provides news content gathered from various internet sources. It is crucial to understand that we are not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information presented Read More

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.
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