Blankers-Koen, Fanny

Blankers-Koen, Fanny
▪ 2005
Francina Elsje Blankers-Koen; “The Flying Housewife” 
      Dutch athlete (b. April 26, 1918, near Baarn, Neth.—d. Jan. 25, 2004, Amsterdam, Neth.), confounded her critics and captured gold in the 100-m and 200-m sprints, the 80-m hurdles, and the 4 × 100-m relay at the 1948 Olympic Games in London; at the time of her death, she was still the only woman to have won four track-and-field gold medals at a single Olympics. (Americans Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis won four track gold medals in 1936 and 1984, respectively.) Fanny Koen first competed for The Netherlands at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and in the 1940s she set world records in the 100-yd dash, the 80-m hurdles, the high jump, and the long jump. She married her coach, former Olympic triple jumper John Blankers, in 1940. By the time the next Olympics were held in 1948, she was 30 years old, had survived several years of deprivation under the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands, and often trained only twice a week for two hours with her two children in tow. Since women were permitted to compete in only three individual events at the 1948 Games, Blankers-Koen's choice of the two sprints and the hurdles barred her from the high and long jumps, in which she had held the world records since 1943. She was undefeated in 11 races (including heats and semifinals) in eight days and won all four gold medals; it later came out that she had been pregnant at the time. At the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Fin., she was ill and had to drop out of the hurdles, which were won by her Australian rival Shirley Strickland de la Hunty (q.v. (Strickland de la Hunty, Shirley Barbara )). Blankers-Koen set world records 16 times in eight different events, including the pentathlon in 1951, won five European titles between 1946 and 1950, and won 58 Dutch national championship titles. In 1999 International Association of Athletics Federations named her the greatest female athlete of the 20th century.

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▪ Dutch athlete
née  Francina Elsje Koen 
born April 26, 1918, Baarn, The Netherlands
died January 25, 2004, Amsterdam
 versatile Dutch track-and-field athlete, who was the first woman to win four gold medals at a single Olympics. She set world records in seven events.

      Blankers-Koen first achieved success as a teenager, winning a Dutch national championship in the 800-metre run in 1935; the next year, at age 17, she placed sixth in the high jump and competed in the 4 × 100-metre relay at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Her time of 11.0 sec in the 100-yard dash in Amsterdam in 1938 tied a world record. She married her coach, Jan Blankers, in 1940. In 1942 and 1943 she set world records in the 80-metre hurdles (11.0 sec), high jump (1.71 metres [5.61 feet]), and long jump (6.25 metres [20.51 feet]).

      Prior to the 1948 Olympics in London, some experts thought Blankers-Koen was too old to be an Olympic sprint champion, and others denounced her for not attending to her duties as a wife and mother of two. Olympic rules limited Blankers-Koen to participating in only three individual events at the 1948 Games. Despite her jumping records, she preferred track events and made them her focus. She won the 100-metre sprint by a comfortable margin, but in the 80-metre hurdles she had to overcome both a slow start and a bumped hurdle in order to secure a narrow victory. Despite winning gold in her first two events, an emotionally spent Blankers-Koen was not confident going into the 200-metre event. Feeling both pressured to win and reviled for even participating, she burst into tears and told her husband that she wanted to withdraw. She reconsidered, however, and went on to win the final by a decisive margin, despite muddy conditions. In her last event, the 4 × 100 relay, she received the baton in fourth place and caught the lead runner at the finish line. Nicknamed the “Flying Housewife” by the press, Blankers-Koen received a hero's welcome when she returned to The Netherlands.

      In 1951, after the pentathlon had been modified to consist of the shot put, high jump, 200-metre sprint, 80-metre hurdles, and long jump, Blankers-Koen set the first modern pentathlon record, with 4,692 points. She failed to earn a medal in her final Olympic appearance in Helsinki, Finland, in 1952. In 1999 she was named the top female athlete of the 20th century by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF; later called the International Association of Athletics Federations).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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