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Example for women

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Maybe it was because she set an example for women at the time. As a mother of two (a son and a daughter) she participated in sport at the highest level, and how! In 1948, the versatile Fanny won the 80 metre hurdles, the 100 and 200 metres and the 4x100 relay. The fact that she didn't take home a medal for the long jump, for which she held the world record (6.25 metres), was down to the event scheduling. She was a real all-rounder, the other highlights of her career including five European titles, 58 Dutch titles (even for shot-put) and 21 world records.

Nevertheless, athletics was not the most obvious choice for Francina Elsje Koen, born on 26 April 1918 in Baarn. The fact that she did choose athletics was mainly due to her father. As a child Fanny excelled at swimming. For a long time, she combined both sports, but eventually her father encouraged her to concentrate on athletics. She followed his advice and never regretted it in the slightest.

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After running her first race in a pair of borrowed shoes that were so big for her she had to stuff them with cotton wool, she set her first national record for the 800 metres. Jan Blankers, a sports journalist and coach, was watching that day. Later he would become Fanny's trainer and husband. Jan Blankers can take partial credit for some of the medals Fanny won in 1948. Because if it had been up to his wife, she would have stopped after two. "I wanted to go home. I missed my children terribly," Blankers-Koen would explain decades later. "My husband told me to keep going, and that I'd regret it if I stopped. He turned out to be right."

And so the athlete came home to Hoofddorp with not two, but four gold medals. The whole country was carried away with Fanny, who was given a bicycle in reward for her achievements. The Queen of the Games, as she was called in London, took part in athletics for another five years, but after three Olympic Games (1936, 1948 and 1952), she had had enough. A 'queen with a man's legs', as the biography written shortly before her death is entitled, abdicated her throne.

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