Lis Hartel

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameLis•Hartel (Holst-)
Used nameLis•Hartel
Born14 March 1921 in Hellerup, Gentofte, Hovedstaden (DEN)
Died12 February 2009 in Fredensborg, Hovedstaden (DEN)
AffiliationsSportsrideklubben, Gentofte
NOC Denmark
Medals OG
Gold 0
Silver 2
Bronze 0
Total 2


In the 1930s Lis Hartel was coached by her mother Else Holst, but when she reached a national competitive level, Gunnar Andersen, a professional horseman, took over. In the early part of her career she competed in both jumping and dressage, and was Danish champion in dressage in 1943 and 1944. Later in 1944, she was struck by polio. At that time she was pregnant with her second child, and no one thought that she ever would be able to compete on horseback again. But through her determination and strong will she gradually regained function in most of her muscles, although she remained paralyzed below her knees for the rest of her life.

In 1947 she started to compete in dressage again, and she improved her dressage skill together with her excellent horse Jubilee and was selected for the Danish team in the 1952 games. Although she needed help to get on and off her horse, she surprised everybody by winning the silver medal in the dressage competition in Helsinki. Four years later she won another dressage silver medal at the Equestrian Games in Stockholm, also this time together with her favorite horse Jubilee. She won the unofficial world championships in dressage in 1954, and was Danish champion in dressage in 1952, 1953, 1954, 1956 and 1959, the last time with a new horse, Limelight.

Lis Hartel’s equestrian achievements caught interest among ordinary sport interested people in Scandinavia, where equestrian among many was regarded as an upper-class sport. She was a charming and charismatic woman, extremely popular not only among followers of equestrians, but also among people outside the horse circles. She also became a role model of other victims of polio, showing what was possible to achieve through training and determination. She was invited to do dressage exhibitions in several countries in Western Europe, and raised funds for treatment of polio victims. In Doorn in the Netherlands, a center for disabled was named after her, the Lis Hartel Foundation.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1952 Summer Olympics Equestrian Dressage (Equestrian) DEN Lis Hartel
Individual, Open (Olympic) Jubilee 2 Silver
1956 Equestrian Olympics Equestrian Dressage (Equestrian) DEN Lis Hartel
Individual, Open (Olympic) Jubilee 2 Silver
Team, Open (Olympic) Jubilee / Denmark 5

Special Notes