Zdeněk Koubek

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Zdeněk Koubek
Zdeněk Koubek in 1936
Personal information
Born(1913-12-08)8 December 1913
Paskov, Moravia, Austria-Hungary
Died12 June 1986(1986-06-12) (aged 72)
Prague, Czechoslovakia
SportRunning, high jump, long jump
ClubVS Brno
VS Praha
Medal record
Representing  Czechoslovakia
Women's World Games
Gold medal – first place 1934 London 800 m
Bronze medal – third place 1934 London Long jump

Zdeněk Koubek (born Zdena "Zdeňka" Koubková, 8 December 1913 – 12 June 1986) was a track athlete from Czechoslovakia. He won two medals at the 1934 Women's World Games and several national titles in the 100–800 m running, long jump and high jump, and set a few world records in running events. Although he was raised and competed as a woman, he was recognised to be intersex in 1935. He retired from athletics and changed his gender to man.[1][2] Koubek is one of the earliest recorded intersex people to compete in athletics at the international level.


Koubek was born in Paskov, in a family of eight siblings. He was born without male genitals, so he was raised as a woman. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Brno, where he finished school and started training in athletics. Koubek continued his education and training in Prague.

In 1934, he won five national titles, in the 100 m, 200 m and 800 m running, high jump and long jump. On 14 June 1934 he set his first world record, in the 800 m at 2:16.4. His next world record came in the medley relay (2×100 m, 200 m and 800 m), at 3:14.4. Later in August, Koubek won the 800 m event at the 1934 Women's World Games, in a world record time of 2:12.4, and finished third in the long jump with a national record of 5.70 m.

According to his diary, despite being raised as a woman he started to feel more and more like a man. In 1935, Koubek retired from competitions and underwent a series of medical examinations. The physicians diagnosed him to be an intersex person with prevailing male sexual characteristics. The next year, he underwent a genital surgery and had his name officially changed to Zdeněk Koubek.[1][3] He abandoned athletics and a potential coaching career, and only after World War II did he join the team of his brother Jaroslav and played rugby for a local club.[4] His records in women athletics were canceled and he returned all of his medals and awards.

Koubek went to New York and Paris, where he talked about his history and performed athletics in cabarets. He returned back to Czechoslovakia, got married and worked as a clerk for Škoda Works. Koubek spent his later years living with his wife in Prague, where he died aged 72. A 1935 novel Zdenin světový rekord (Zdena's world record) by Lída Merlínová is based on his early life and career.[1][4]


  1. ^ a b c Zdena/Zdeněk Koubková/Koubek. encyklopedie.brna.cz
  2. ^ Medicine: Change of Sex. Time. 24 August 1936
  3. ^ Heggie, V. (2010). "Testing sex and gender in sports; reinventing, reimagining and reconstructing histories". Endeavour. 34 (4): 157–63. doi:10.1016/j.endeavour.2010.09.005. PMC 3007680. PMID 20980057.
  4. ^ a b Zdeněk Koubek. translide.cz