Lewis, Blankers-Koen named as IAAF athletes of the century

Andreas Evagora
Sunday 21 November 1999 00:00
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Carl Lewis and Fanny Blankers-Koen, who each won four gold medals at a single Olympic Games, were named as athletes of the century on Sunday by track and field's world governing body.

Carl Lewis and Fanny Blankers-Koen, who each won four gold medals at a single Olympic Games, were named as athletes of the century on Sunday by track and field's world governing body.

Lewis claimed gold medals at the 100-meter, 200-meter, long jump and 100-meter relay events at the 1984 Los Angeles games, making 13 appearances in eight days.

At 30, Dutch athlete Blankers-Koen was labeled as too old at the London Olympics in 1948, but went on to win gold at 100 meters, 100 meter hurdles, 200 meters and the 100-meter relay.

Lewis's triumph equaled the four golds won by the legendary Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

"I don't consider one achievement as being better than the other because we competed in different eras," said Lewis, who retired in 1996 after winning another Olympic gold medal at the long jump. "If he had not tried to win those four events, if he had not offered that inspiration, it would not have happened to me."

Lewis said that it is still possible for another athlete to win four Olympic golds.

"Everything is there to be matched and duplicated. That is human nature," he said.

In her brilliant career Blankers-Koen held world records at 100 meters, 200 meters, 800 meters, high jump and long jump.

Her favorite memory is of the post-war London Olympics.

"I still remember every heat, every race. It has been great to think about it again over the last few days because it was so long ago," she said.

Blankers-Koen, now 81, recalled that her husband and coach Jan Blankers persuaded her to continue when she was ready to return to the Netherlands after winning two golds.

"I had had enough after two medals," she said. "I was crying and wanted to go home to my two children.'

"But my husband told me that I would be sorry if I didn't carry on. That was a very heavy moment and a very difficult choice," she said.

The IAAF's 11-member International Athletic Federation selected Lewis and Blankers-Koen, who were due to be presented with their awards at a star-studded ceremony in Monte Carlo.

The IAAF also announced its athletes of the year.

Michael Johnson, the world champion and world record holder at 400 meters, won the men's award, and Golden League jackpot winner Gabriela Szabo collected the women's prize.

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