• Short Summary

    Fanny Blankers-Koen, "greatest ever" female athlete,
    dies at 85.

    Francina "Fanny" Blankers-Koen, who has?

  • Description

    Fanny Blankers-Koen, "greatest ever" female athlete,
    dies at 85.

    Francina "Fanny" Blankers-Koen, who has died aged
    85, was a 30-year-old mother-of-two when she made history
    by winning four of the nine women's track and field events
    at the 1948 London Olympics.

    Blankers-Koen took gold in the 100 and 200 metres,
    80-metres hurdles and the 4x100 metres relay, running the
    anchor leg, in the space of eight days at Wembley Stadium.

    No woman athlete has won so many golds at a single

    Her achievements were honoured in 1999 when the IAAF
    voted her female athlete of the 20th century.

    Blankers-Koen's Olympic career had been interrupted by
    World War Two, when two editions of the Games were

    In 1936, Blankers-Koen was 18 when she was picked to
    join the Dutch team at the Berlin Games. She tied for fifth
    place in the high jump and was part of the 4x100-metre
    relay team that finished fifth.

    The highlight of those Games for her, she said, was
    getting the autograph of Jesse Owens, who won four gold
    medals in the men's events.

    By the time the Olympics resumed after a 12-year break,
    Blankers-Koen held six world records -- in the 100 yards,
    80-metre hurdles, high and long jumps and as a member of
    two relay teams.

    In the interim, she had married her coach, Jan
    Blankers, an Olympic triple jumper, and given birth to two

    Critics said she was too old to win the sprint at the
    1948 Games but she silenced them immediately with the
    fastest time in the opening round of the 100 metres.

    Before the 200 metres semi-finals, her third event,
    Blankers-Koen told her husband Jan she wanted to withdraw
    because of the pressure on her to win again. Jan persuaded
    her to continue and she won her heat by six metres,
    establishing an Olympic record of 24.3 seconds.

    The next day she won the final by seven metres, the
    largest margin ever recorded in the women's 200 metres.

    Many felt she could have won the long jump as well if
    she had entered it as the winning leap was some 20 inches
    shorter than her world record. But Games rules restricted
    women athletes to three individual events.

    When she got home to her native Amsterdam,
    Blankers-Koen was driven through the crowded streets in an
    open, horse-drawn carriage. Fans presented her with a
    bicycle "so she won't have to run so much" and a statue was
    erected in the city in her honour.

    "I remember thinking how strange that I had made so
    many people happy," recalled Blankers-Koen, who continued
    to ride a bicycle and play tennis into her 80s.

    "But times were harsh and people were glad of the
    opportunity to celebrate anything. It made me proud to know
    I had been able to bring joy into people's lives."
    At the Helsinki Olympics in 1952, Blankers-Koen reached
    the 80 metres final again but, hampered by a carbuncle on
    her leg, hit the first two hurdles and pulled up.

    Blankers-Koen set 20 world records in different events
    including sprint, hurdles, long and high jump and
    pentathlon, won five European titles between 1945 and 1950
    and captured 58 national titles in the Netherlands.

    But her most treasured memory remained meeting Owens in
    Berlin. 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."

  • Tags

  • Data

    Film ID:
    Media URN:
    Reuters - Source to be Verified
    Issue Date:
    HD Format:
    Available on request
    Time in/Out:

Comments (0)

We always welcome comments and more information about our films.
All posts are reactively checked. Libellous and abusive comments are forbidden.

Add your comment