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Going for gold: IPU highlights the contributions of five parliamentary Olympians

Excelling as a world-class athlete and performing parliamentary work both require determination, collaboration, and a commitment to excellence. As we count down to the Paris 2024 Olympics, let’s meet five trailblazers who succeeded in both arenas.

1. Sebastian Coe – United Kingdom

Sebastian Coe is a former middle-distance runner who won four Olympic medals, including two golds, and set multiple world records.

On retiring, he was elected to the British House of Commons in 1992 for the Conservative Party and served until 1997. He later became a life peer in the House of Lords in May 2000.

Mr. Coe headed the successful London 2012 Olympic bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics and became chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games.

2. Matthew John Cowdrey – Australia

Despite having a congenital amputation of his left arm, Matthew John Cowdrey is one of Australia’s most successful Paralympic swimmers, amassing 13 Paralympic gold medals and 23 Paralympic medals in his sporting career.

He competed in several international tournaments including the 2004 Paralympic Games, 2006 Commonwealth Games, 2008 Paralympic Games, 2010 Commonwealth Games, and the 2012 Paralympic Games.

Later, Mr. Cowdrey won a seat for the Liberal Party in South Australia’s 2018 state election and was reelected in 2022. He has been a strong advocate for disability rights and sports funding.

3. Nancy Greene – Canada

Nancy Greene is an Olympic alpine champion who won a gold medal in the giant slalom at the 1968 Winter Olympics. She was voted Canada’s Female Athlete of the twentieth century and has been active in sports administration and politics.

Ms. Greene was appointed as Senator for British Columbia for the Government of Canada in 2009 and remained a passionate advocate for health and fitness, playing a key role in establishing the first Saturday in June as National Health and Fitness Day in Canada.

4. Nawal El Moutawakel – Morocco

Nawal El Moutawakel made history as the first Moroccan to win an Olympic gold medal, which she achieved in the women’s 400-meter hurdles event at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

After retiring from competitive sports, El Moutawakel became a council member of World Athletics in 1995. She has been member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since 1998 where she also served as Vice-President from 2012 to 2016.

She was appointed Minister of Youth and Sports in the Moroccan government from 2007-2009 and from 2016 to 2021 she was a Member of the Moroccan Parliament.

5. Sandra Perković – Croatia

Sandra Perković is a discus legend who has won two Olympic gold medals, two World Championships, and a record seven European Championships.

In addition to her athletic achievements, Ms. Perković has also been active in politics. She became a member of the Croatian Parliament in 2015 and served as a member of the Parliament’s Committee on Family, Youth and Sports. Her mandate came to an end in 2016 after the disolution of the Parliament.

These trailblazers have shown that success in sports and politics is possible with hard work, dedication, and a commitment to excellence.

As we look forward to the Paris 2024 Olympics, let’s celebrate their achievements and inspire the next generation of Olympic parliamentarians.

IPU Secretariat, Geneva