Gretel Bergman might have been one of the world's leading athletes, but you won't see her on many lists of winners. Germany's national champion and record holder in the high jump, she was due to compete in the 1936 Olympics. (You see where this is going, right? Just you wait.)
We've written a lot about those Olympics (see the profiles linked below), but this story might be the strangest of them all. It started when Bergmann was kicked off the Olympic team for being Jewish. In her place, went Dora Ratjen.
Accounts diverge here; either Ratjen replaced Bergmann, or was scheduled to go anyway, and Germany just took away the latter's slot. Ratjen was an excellent jumper in his own right. You did not just misread that; we wrote "his". Dora was a man.
Born with disfigured genitals, Ratjen was raised as a girl, but, as puberty approached, it became clear to him that he was a boy. However, the times as they were, he continued to present himself as female, competed in women's events, and did quite well.
Accounts diverge here as well; either the German authorities had no idea that Ratjen was a man, or they purposely groomed him to win medals. (It wouldn't be the last time Germans masculized their female athletes for the purpose of glory; remember the entire Olympic history of East German "women".) It didn't exactly work here: Ratjen finished fourth.
After the Olympics, Ratjen finally addressed his situation, and became Heinrich. He lived the rest of his life in obscurity, refusing to talk about the past.
As for Bergmann, she immigrated to the US, won the American championship, and retired from sport. She settled in Queens, where she lived to be over 100.
Perhaps Gretel Bergman was the big winner after all.