Fanny Blankers-Koen won 4 gold medals at the 1948 Olympic Games. The fact that she did that, at that time, is impressive enough. The fact that she held an incredible 12 world records is impressive enough. What makes her even more impressive is that she was a 30-year-old mother of two often criticised for daring to be a female athlete and a parent.
Google celebrates Fanny Blankers-Koen’s 100th birthday
Today, Google celebrates Fanny Blankers-Koen’s one-hundredth birthday with a Google doodle. That’s the image that appears above your Google search bar ;). It’s the modern equivalent of getting the front page cover of a newspaper. Except that newspaper is published worldwide!
So who was Fanny Blankers-Koen?
Fanny was born in the Netherlands, the only daughter in a family with five boys. She was highly active in her youth, playing tennis, swimming, attending gymnastics, ice-skating and fencing competitively but chose running as a preferred sport. That proved to be a good idea. In fact, by her late teens, she was setting records in her home country.
people thought she should stay home
Then, at 18 years of age, she competed at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. She came fifth in the 4×100 meter relay and sixth in high jump. In fact, it was that those Olympic games that she met her hero Jesse Owens. Jesse Owens gave her an autograph and it became her most favoured possession.
World War II affected her medal tally
When World War II broke out in the middle of her career you might have thought that would be the end of it. Fanny married and had two children. However even during the war, and during food rationing, she continued to train herself and set another six world records. On top of that, she gave birth to her first child! After the war ended, in 1946, Fanny Blankers-Koen won a further 2 gold medals at the European championships in Oslo.
Then, in 1948, as a 30-year-old mum of two, Fanny Blankers-Koen won the 200-meter gold at the Olympics. Importantly, she did this after receiving many letters criticising her for continuing to run despite being a mother. Apparently, many people thought she should stay home as a housewife. What a shame that would have been.
In total, she captured 4 gold medals at the 1948 London games. Further, she was the first woman to do that at any Olympics in history. Oh, by the way, did we mention she was pregnant with her third child at the time? In fact, to this day, Fanny Blankers-Koen holds the record for winning the women’s 200m race at the Olympics by the greatest margin (0.7 seconds). Remember, she did that as a 30-year-old, post-WWII (post-rationing) mother of two!
Fanny never made a fortune from her success. Those who came after her did but she famously noted that they trained twice a day whilst she only trained twice a week. She felt they deserved it.
Fanny Blankers-Koen died at the age of 85 after suffering Alzheimer’s and eventually becoming deaf. We’re sure she fought those illnesses every step of the way. That was in 2004. RIP Fanny Blankers-Koen.