How many Olympic medals did Fanny Blankers-Koen win?

For readers unfamiliar with the name, Francina Elsje Blankers-Koen, better known as ‘Fanny’ Blankers-Koen, was a versayile Dutch athlete who competed at three Summer Olympic Games, in Berlin in 1936, London in 1948 and Helsinki in 1952. Born in Lage Vuursche, near Baarn, in the central Netherlands on April 26, 1918, she made her Olympic debut as an 18-year-old, finishing co-fifth in the high jump and fifth, and last, in the 4 x 100 metres relay, after Germany, who had set a world record in the heats, were disqualified. The Summer Olympic scheduled for Tokyo, and then Helsinki, in 1940 and for London in 1944 were, of course, cancelled due to World War II.

By the time the Games returned, in London in 1948, Blankers-Koen had already set world records in the 80 metres hurdles, high jump and long jump and equalled the world record in the individual 100 metres and was the outstanding female athlete in her native country. Limited, by Olympic rules of the day, to no more than three individual events, she elected to compete in the 100 metres, 200 metres and 80 metres hurdles, plus the 4 x 100 metres relay.

Despite contesting eleven heats in just over a week, the 30-year-old mother-of-two won gold medals in all four events, earning herself the nickname ‘The Flying Housewife’. Victory, by a comfortable margin, in her opening event, the 100 metres, made her the first Dutchwoman to win an Olympic gold medal in athletics and she subsequently became the first woman, of any nationality, to win four gold medals at a single Olympic Games.

Blankers-Koen also competed at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, qualifying for the semi-final of the 100 metres, but withdrawing at that stage, and failing to finish in the final of the 80 metres hurdles, in what turned out to be her last competitive race. Nevertheless, in 1999, she was chosen as ‘Female Athlete of the the 20th Century’ by the Council of the International Athletic Foundation.

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