Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Mieography

Francina Elsje Koen was born int the Netherlands in 1918. Her father, Arnoldus was a government official who competed in shot put and discus competetions. She was lucky enough to have 5 brothers. Her mother, Helena, must have been a saint.
As a teenager, she also enjoyed sports, among them, were tennis, swimming, gymnastics, ice skating, fencing and running. She was a natural athelete. Her biggest problem is that she could not decide which sport to pick. Her swimming coach advised her to choose track, because the Netherlands already had several talented swimmers.
She made the Dutch team, as a sprinter, running the 800m Her coach, and future husband, Jan Blankers, encouraged her to enter the trials for the 1936 Olympics, being held in Berlin. She was 18 years old, and got selected for the high jump, and the 4 x 100 relay. Both of those events were held on the same day. She took 5th place in the high jump, and the Dutch relay team also took fifth place. While in Berlin, she got the autograph of American Track athelete Jesse Owens, and that was one of her most treasured possessions.
Slowly, steadily, she rose to the top. In 1938, she broke her first world record. (100 yards in 11 seconds, no less). She started winning international medals.Sadly, the advent of WW II put a stop to her Olympic dreams of 1940. Worse yet, the Netherlands got invaded.
She married Jan Blankers in 1940, and had her first baby, in 1941. The Dutch media assumed her career was over. It was inconceivable that a mother would be an athelete. She and her husband had other ideas....
During the war, she set six new world records. Hurdles, high jumps, 100m, and the long jump.
It became more difficult to get enough food, especially for training atheletes. Still, she kept on. In 1944 she broke the record for the 100 yd dash, and ran with a relay team who broke 100m world record. Then the 200 m record.
Then, Hongerwinter (hungerwinter) set in. It was severe, and the lack of food was astounding, especially in big cities. The Blankers were living in Amsterdam, and made it through the war in good health.
In 1946, she gave birth, again, to her daughter, Fanny Jr. Six weeks later, she went and competed in the European Championships in Oslo, Norway. She did not do as well ashe wanted to, but she did manage to win the 80 m Hurdles, and led the Dutch relay team to victory in the 4 x 100m.
In 1947, she won national titles in 6 events, and went to the first post war Olympics, in London. She "limited" herself to four events. 100m, 200 m, 80 m Hurdles, and the 4 x 100 relay. Some questioned her, suggesting that 30 was too old to be an athelete, and that she should stay home, and look after her children. She took a gold metal in all four events. She became known as "The Flying Housewife", and "Amazing Fanny". When she got home, she was welcomed by an immense crowd, a ride through the city pulled by four white horses, and the gift of a new bicycle, so she could "go through life at a slower pace", and that "so she need not run so much". Queen Juliana made her a knight of the Order of Orange Nassau.
She was now known world wide. She travelled abroad to promote womens athetics, going to both Australia, and the USA. It came out that while she was at the London Olympics, she'd been pregnant with her third child, who was born in 1949.
At the age of 34, she took part in her third Olympics, in Helsinki, Finland. She was in good condition, though severely hampered by a boil. She had to abandon her hurdles event, and the 100m. It was her last major competition. She did manage, in 1955, she had one last victory, winning the national shot put title. Her 58th Dutch title.
Later in life, she served as the team leader of the Dutch athletics team. In 1977, her husband died, and it forced her to be more independant. In 199, she was honored by the International Association of Athletics Federations as the "Female Athelete of the Century. Surprised, she was heard to ask
"You mean it is me who has won?"
She ended up suffering from Alzheimers disease, and spent her last years in a psychiatric nursing home. She'd also gone deaf. A statue of her has been placed in Rotterdam.


Daryl said...

What a sad ending to such an amazing life .. and what a perfect Mieography for this week!

I'd never heard of her either but then I am totally not sports knowledgeable


sybil law said...

She rocks. Rocked. Whatever. :)

holly said...

wonderful stuff!!!

oh and i'd never heard of her either.

but now, yay!