By Stan Greenberg
Last updated 2011-03-03
Francina Koen started her athletic career in Holland as an 800m runner aged 13. Five years later she competed in the 1936 Olympic high jump in Berlin, placed sixth, and ran on the fifth-placed sprint relay. By the time the London Olympics came round she was married to Jan Blankers, her coach, and had two children. At the time, the 30-year-old ‘Fanny’ held six world records, including the high jump and long jump. When the Games were over she was a national heroine, having set a new female standard of four Olympic gold medals at one celebration – 100m, 200m, 80m hurdles, and 4 x 100m relay (shown here).
This success matched the male record of four golds, set originally by Alvin Kraenzlein (USA) in 1900, and famously equalled by Jesse Owens at Berlin. Fanny said that one of her greatest moments was obtaining his autograph there.
There is little doubt that she could also have taken the long jump in London, but, she was apprehensive that she had taken on too much already. Prior to the semi-finals of her third event, the 200m, she felt under so much pressure that she almost had a nervous breakdown. However, she recovered and went on to win the final by 0.7sec, the largest winning margin ever in the event.
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