Francina “Fanny” Elsje Blankers-Koen (April 26, 1918 – January 25, 2004) was a Dutch athlete who won four gold medals at the 1948 Olympics in London. She was known as the “first queen of women’s Olympics”, remaining the first and only woman ever to win four gold medals at the Olympics. Blankers-Koen did it all as a 30-year-old mother of two in a time when many take no notice of women’s athletics.
Greatest Sporting Achievements
Nicknamed, “The Flying Housewife”, Fanny Blankers-Koen was the most successful athlete at the 1948 Summer Olympics. She started competing in 1935 then took part in the 1936 Summer Olympics. She set several world records on the long jump, high jump, sprint and hurdling events. Aside from the her Olympic titles, she also won five European titles, 58 Dutch championships and set 12 world records at the age of 33. Fanny was named “Female Athlete of the Century” by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in 1999.
Why Was She So Good?
Fanny Blankers-Koen was the person responsible for making women athletes worthy of respect and attention. Her nickname, “Flying Dutch Housewife” was due to people considered it unusual that a married woman and a mother was a world-class athlete. Her role as both a wife and mother sometimes overshadowed her athletic achievements but helped dismiss the falsehood that women would lose their feminity while competing in a track and field race.
What You Many Not Know
- Before fame, Fanny Blankers-Koen excelled at many sports especially swimming.
- She married her coach, Jan Blankers, a year after competing in the Olympics.
- After her athletic career, Fanny Blankers-Koen became the team leader of the Dutch athletic team from 1958 European Championships to the 1968 Summer Olympics.
- During her last few years, she suffered Alzheimer’s and was deaf. She stayed in a psychiatric nursing home.
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