Chances are pretty good that you’ve never heard of my #9 choice in this book on Olympic Favorites.
However, after reading about how she dominated international women’s track and field events a generation ago, you’ll more than likely never forget The Flying Housewife.
Fanny Blankers-Koen of the Netherlands was not your average housewife. Her 1940s fame came from flying around the track at international track and field events. This Dutch woman’s amazing success earned her the nickname, The Flying Housewife.
Ironically, this incredible runner missed her peak performance years in the sport of track and field. Events during World War II cancelled the 1940 and 1944 Olympics. However, at age 30, The Flying Housewife entered the 1948 Summer Olympic Games at Wembley Stadium in London. It was here that this stay-at-home mother of two defied all track and field logic and also broke through social norms of the time.
Blankers-Koen was truly a long shot in the events by the time she entered the 1948 Summer Olympics. The patriarchal press, and those who believed a mother of two should remain home with kids, frowned upon her participation in the Olympic Games.
The Flying Housewife Soared in 1948 London Olympics
Surprisingly, this Flying Housewife didn’t just compete. She soared. Blankers-Koen dominated women’s track and field during the 1948 London Games like Jessie Owens did during the men’s events in Berlin in 1936. She captured gold medals in the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the 80 meter hurdles and as part of the Dutch women’s 400 meters relay team.
Blankers-Koen came out of the London games as a symbol and heroine for aspiring female athletes across the globe. Back home, she also became known as something of a national treasure. Queen Juliana of Holland knighted her into the Order of the Orange Nassau, the country’s highest honor.
The Flying Housewife’s performance at the London Games should not have come as a surprise. Before her stunning 1948 Olympic Games victories, Blankers-Koen already held six world records in the sprints, hurdles, long jump and high jump.
Fanny Blankers-Koen Named Female Athlete of Century
In 1999 the International Association of Athletic Federations named Blankers-Koen as their Female Athlete of the Century. She earned the award for her brilliant London accomplishments and her incredible overall track and field resume. Her career included 58 Dutch Championships, five European titles and twelve total world records.
Many housewives of her era dusted ordinary knick-knacks around the house. But, dusting all of the track and field medals, trophies and world record awards she won during her career likely kept this gifted and socially pioneering Flying Housewife one busy woman.
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MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!