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As an 18-year-old, she earned a gold medal at 500m in 1980. Two months before the 1984 Games, she set a world record at 1,500m, but it was not recognized for technical reasons.
In Sarajevo she broke the world record again, this time officially. She went on to earn another gold medal in the 1,000m and 1,500m and silver medals in the 500m and 3,000m. In 1988, competing under her married name of Karen Kania, she won silver medals at 1,000m and 1,500m and a bronze medal in the 500m.