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London 1948 - Key Moments

Fanny Blankers-Koen -- the flying housewife

Francina "Fanny" Blankers-Koen became known as the flying houswife on account of her education at a home economics school and because of her exploits at the 1948 London Olympics.

The Dutch youngster began her athletics career winning regional and national titles before being selected for the 1936 Olympic Games. In Berlin, she managed fifth place in the 4x100m relay and sixth in the high jump.

Because of World War II it was 12 years before she would grace an Olympic track again, by which time she had married her trainer, Jan Blankers, in 1940, and had remained focused on her career -- achieving world records in the 80m hurdles, high jump and long jump.

Four Olympic titles

At the age of 30 at the London Olympics Blankers-Koen was to show younger athletes that age was certainly no handicap as she won four gold medals in the space of four days (100m, 200m, 80m hurdles and 4x100).

In the 100m, a three-meter gap lay between the Dutch wonder and her English counterpart, Dorothy Manley, at the finish line for a time of 11.9 seconds.

Two days later a close duel between the mother/housewife and a ballet instructor was to hand the Dutchwoman her second gold. After a bad start in the 80m hurdles, Blankers-Koen finally caught up with Britain's Maureen Gardner to record victory in 11.2 seconds -- a new world record.

On Aug. 6, 1948 another Englishwoman fell victim to her superiority, this time Audrey Williamson in the 200m.

But in the semifinals, the pressure to win a third gold medal was taking its toll. Blankers-Koen told her husband that she wanted to withdraw. He countered her emotional outburst by evoking memories of their family and her parents.

If his words of encouragement could have been bottled and sold, he would have been a millionaire -- she went out and won by six yards and set a new Olympic record of 24.3 seconds.

Running on a muddy track the next day, she made history by winning the final with a margin of seven yards -- the biggest in the women's 200m.

Blankers-Koen's final Olympic triumph came in the closing stages of the 4x100m relay. Running the final leg in the right-hand lane, the flying housewife was in fourth place, but managed to reach the tape before Australia's Joyce King to take her fourth and historic gold medal.

Olympic medals aside, Holland's most celebrated daughter, continued to display her superiority in the track and field, winning 100m, 200m and 80m hurdles titles in the European championships in 1950. During her career, Fanny Blankers-Koen won five European champion titles, 80m hurdles, 4x100m, 100m and 200m from 1946 to 1950.

She finally hung up her spikes, at the age of 37, after winning the Dutch national weight-throwing title. In later years she continued to work with successive Dutch Olympic teams.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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