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1960s / Press Sisters Gender Controversy
Tamara and Irina Press, two sisters from the old Soviet Union, were dominant in women's athletics during the early 1960s. Tamara (pictured here) was virtually unbeatable in shot put. Irina was an excellent pentathlete and a world-record holder in the 80-metre hurdles. The trouble was they didn't look too feminine. Speculation about the sisters' true gender was always present. Some western sports journalists began secretly referring to the Press sisters as the 'Press brothers.' When the governing body of European athletics began instituting gender testing in 1966, instead of complying, the Press sisters vanished from international competition--never to return. Soviet newspapers reported that they had retired from sports to tend to their ailing mother. When Irina died in 2004, several months went by before her death was officially announced.