Athletics: Tributes pour in for 'Flying Housewife'

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The Independent Online

Tributes were paid yesterday to Fanny Blankers-Koen, regarded as the greatest female athlete of the 20th century, after her death at the age of 85.

The 'Flying Housewife' will be remembered for winning four gold medals at the London Olympics in 1948 after successes in 80m hurdles, 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. And, had it not been for a tight schedule, the Dutchwoman could have had five golds as she was also the long jump world record-holder.

"The IAAF is very sad to receive the news of Fanny Blankers-Koen's death," the International Amateur Athletics Federation president Lamine Diack said. "The whole athletics world mourns the parting of this great ambassador whose career feats have yet to be matched, a fact reflected in her election in 1999 as the greatest female athlete of the 20th century."

Blankers-Koen was bestowed with that honour in a ceremony at the world athletics gala in November 1999, where Carl Lewis received the men's award. Born Francisca Blankers-Koen in Amsterdam in 1918, she made her first appearance in the 1936 Olympics and finished fifth equal in the high jump and fifth in the 4x100m relay.

The Second World War deprived her of two Olympic Games but she more than compensated in London where, as a 30-year-old and a mother of two, Blankers-Koen never lost in 11 heats and finals in eight days.

During her career, which spanned nearly two decades, Fanny set a range of world records covering sprint, hurdles, high jump and long jump, as well as the Pentathlon. She also won five European titles.