In honor of what would have been Dutch Olympic athlete Fanny Blankers-Koen’s 100th birthday, Google featured a logo tribute on its homepage to showcase the (literal) strides she made for women athletes.
Born on April 26, 1918 in Baarn, Netherlands, Blankers-Koen grew up with five brothers and a father who had competed in the shot put and discus. She enjoyed and thrived at a variety of sports, but stuck to track for a better chance at qualifying for the Olympics, according to Britannica Encyclopedia.
Blankers-Koen was only 17 years old when she first achieved success. She won a Dutch national championship in the 800-meter run and made it to the Berlin Olympics in 1936.
In 1938, at the Amsterdam games, Blankers-Koen broke a world record with her time of 11.0 seconds in the 100-yard dash.
During this time, World War II had the Netherlands under Nazi occupation, halting international competition for about six years. But Blankers-Koen still managed to train and compete and became a world-record holder at 80-meter hurdles by the end of 1943.
Following the war, she competed in the 1946 European Championships in Norway and later announced she intended to compete in the 1948 London Games. She was a 30-year-old mother of two at the time.
"I got very many bad letters, people writing that I must stay home with my children and that I should not be allowed to run on a track with - how do you say it? - short trousers,'' Blankers-Koen told The New York Times in 1982.
But that didn’t stop the track star. At the London Games, she won four gold medals, making her the first woman to win four medals in a single Olympics. According to the Google blog, Blankers-Koen “outstrided her opponents in the women’s 200m by 0.7 seconds—the highest margin in Olympics 200m history and a record that still stands today.”
"One newspaperman wrote that I was too old to run, that I should stay at home and take care of my children. When I got to London, I pointed my finger at him and I said: 'I show you,'" she said.
“Her quick feet didn’t just set records,” Google wrote. “Blankers-Koen’s accomplishments flattened stereotypes of female athletes at the time, earning her the nickname ‘The Flying Housewife.’”
In 1999, Blankers-Koen was recognized as female “Athlete of the Year” by the International Association of Athletics Federations.
She died in Amsterdam at age 85 on Jan. 25, 2004. The Olympics organization still regards her as one of the great Olympians in history.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.