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Fanny Blankers-Koen

(1918—2004)


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(1918–2004)

A Dutch athlete who set twenty world records in her career. At the Olympics in London in 1948 she became the only female athlete to win four gold medals at a single Olympics, winning the 100 metres, 200 metres, 80-metre hurdles, and 4 by 100 metres. She competed too at the 1936 and 1952 Games. In 1951 she set a world record for the newly revised pentathlon event. In 1999 the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) voted her female athlete of the 20th century. Blankers-Koen was a 30-year-old mother of two when she competed in London in 1948. She was criticized by some for neglecting traditional and maternal responsibilities, as was English mountaineer Alison Hargreaves more than four decades later. Blankers-Koen's performances were extraordinary too in that she was running in a hostile climate for women athletes; after the 1936 Games, Avery Brundage, a member of the International Olympic Committee at the time and its president in 1952, commented that he was ‘fed up to the ears with women as track and field competitors’ as in that context women's ‘charms sink to less than zero. As swimmers and divers, girls are beautiful and adroit, as they are ineffective and unpleasing on the track.’ Blankers-Koen, nicknamed ‘The Flying Housewife’ in the Netherlands, demonstrated the absurdity of Brundage's comments in her achievements, winning huge popularity at home in the Netherlands, and across the expanding international sporting audience, for her unprecedented feats.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.


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