- January 26, 2004 at 1:47 pm #1148
The world’s greatest ever female athlete Fanny Blankers-Koen of the Netherlands died this morning, Sunday 25 January, at the age of 85.
“The IAAF is very sad to receive the news of Fanny Blankers-Koen’s death,” commented IAAF President Lamine Diack. “The whole Athletics world mourns the parting of this great ambassador for our sport whose career feats have yet to be matched, a fact which was reflected in her election in 1999 as the greatest female athlete of the 20th century.”
In a glittering ceremony at the World Athletics Gala in November 1999, Fanny Blankers-Koen along with Carl Lewis (USA) received the awards as the top athletes of the 20th century, reflecting a outstanding career of success on the track.
Fanny Blankers-Koen will be chiefly remembered for winning four gold medals in the same Games. Blankers-Koen, won the 80m Hurdles, the 100m, the 200m and the 4x100m at the 1948 Games in London.
- January 27, 2004 at 2:43 pm #13211
The Electronic Telegraph
Monday 26 January 2004
Fanny Blankers-Koen, one of the foremost competitors in the history of
the Olympic Games, died in Holland at the age of 85 yesterday.
The impact of this Dutch athlete on the Games and upon track and field
was the greater for two factors. Firstly, Nazi occupation interrupted
the prime of her career, and secondly, when she appeared at the Games in
London in 1948 she was already 30 and the mother of two children.
In the middle of the 20th century motherhood was widely regarded as
almost a disqualification from athletic excellence, and her unparalleled
achievement of four gold medals stunned not only the British but a
Blankers-Koen was already the creator of seven world records, though a
largely uninformed British public were unaware of this background. Her
four victories in nine days, often in foul weather, changed social
Only in the 80 metres hurdles was she seriously challenged – by
Britain’s favourite woman athlete Maureen Gardner. Indeed in the 200
metres, held for the first time in a Games, she won by the largest
margin ever in the sprints by man or woman, 0.7 seconds.
She would surely additionally have won the long jump, had her husband
and coach, Jan, not advised her to withdraw to preserve herself for the
final of the hurdles, which took place in the afternoon after the long
Aged 18, Fanny had competed at the Berlin Games in 1936, finishing sixth
in the high jump and fifth in the sprint relay when the last German
runner dropped the baton.
She said the highlight of Berlin for her was getting the autograph of
Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals. They met again at the 1972 Games
in Munich. “I said: ‘I still have your autograph. I’m Fanny
Blankers-Koen,’ ” she recalled. “He said: ‘You don’t have to tell me who
you are, I know everything about you.’ Isn’t that incredible? Jesse
Owens knew who I was.”
Maintaining her fitness during the war, she was often competing against
men, and set women’s world records in high jump, long jump, hurdles and
100 metres. By the time of the London Games, having a boy of seven and
girl of two, she had improved her 100m record to 11.5sec. On a wet track
she took the 100m title in 11.9sec ahead of Dorothy Manley, of Britain.
Blankers-Koen confessed to being exceedingly nervous before the hurdles
final, holding Gardner in some awe. “I’d realised, warming up
beforehand, that she was as nervous as I was,” she recalled.
“For the final I was drawn in the next lane, which was a help, but I had
one of my worst starts and was a metre down by the first flight. But
then I raced as never before, so fast that I was too close to the fifth
flight. From then on it was a struggle and I only just made it.”
Waiting for the announcement, the National Anthem sounded on the public
address, and she thought she had lost, “but they were playing the anthem
because the Royal Family had just arrived.”
Arriving home in Amsterdam she was greeted by a huge crowd and a
horse-drawn carriage with four horses. A statue of her was erected in
Yet she soon retired to become a housewife, having broken 20 world
records and captured 58 Dutch national titles. “These days everybody has
their own sponsor,” she said recently. “I think I had more fun.”
Sebastian Coe, the British Olympics runner, said: “As we salivate at the
thought of bringing the Games back to London 64 years later, we have
much to be grateful to the ‘flying housewife’ from Baarn. She was in the
vanguard of changing the perception of women in sport.”
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