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OBITUARIES / PASSINGS / Lis Hartel

Equestrian won Olympic silver

February 15, 2009|TIMES STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

Lis Hartel, 87, an equestrian who won two Olympic silver medals for Denmark in the 1950s despite being paralyzed below the knees because of polio, died Thursday of undisclosed causes, the Danish Equestrian Federation said in Copenhagen. She had suffered a stroke in the 1980s.

Hartel was 23 and pregnant with her second child when she contracted polio during an outbreak in Denmark in the 1930s. She gradually regained the use of most of her muscles, although she remained paralyzed below the knees. Her arms and hands also were affected.

She defied medical advice and continued to ride but needed help to get on and off the horses.

In 1952, women won the right to compete in Olympic dressage, an event in which horse and rider perform a series of exercises over a memorized course while being timed. That year, she finished runner-up with her horse Jubilee at the Helsinki Games. Four years later, she and Jubilee won silver again at the Melbourne Games, in which the equestrian events were held in Stockholm because of Australian quarantine laws.

Hartel was included in Denmark's Hall of Fame in 1992 and named one of the Scandinavian country's top 10 athletes of all time in 2005.

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