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Monday, 25 September, 2000, 01:34 GMT 02:34 UK
Rider's legends: Fanny Blankers-Koen
Fanny Blankers-Koen
Fanny Blankers-Koen takes the 80m hurdles in her stride
Steve Rider
BBC Olympics presenter Steve Rider highlights some of the great Olympians from the pages of history.

The name Fanny Blankers-Koen will crop up regularly in Sydney even though it is 52 years since the Dutchwoman ran her last Olympics.

Blankers-Koen made history at the London Games of 1948 by winning four gold medals.

It is a record that has never been surpassed or equalled by any woman - until perhaps this autumn when the American Marion Jones attempts to win five.

Blankers-Koen was a teenager when she went to her first Olympics in Berlin but the Second World War meant it would be 14 years before she got another chance to compete on the world stage.

Mother

By 1948, Blankers-Koen was a 30-year-old mother-of-two - married to her coach Jan Blankers - and the holder of six world records.

Fanny Blankers-Koen
Blankers-Koen after winning the 200 metres
She entered the 100m, 200m, 80m hurdles and 4x100m relay and won the lot.

Blankers-Koen's world records included the high jump, but she did not like competing in that event, and the long jump which she had to miss as it clashed with the hurdles final.

"Before I went to England, I said to my family and my husband that it would be nice to reach the finals," she says modestly.

"I didn't really expect to win one gold let alone four."

The 100m was duly won by three metres and later that week, Blankers-Koen added the 80m hurdles gold.

Strain

But that was where her Olympics almost came to an abrupt end.

Fanny Blankers-Koen
Receiving an athlete of the century award in 1999
"The strain was getting to me," she said. "I was missing my children and while the heats were okay because I was with the other Dutch girls, the days up to the finals were lonely.

"I was crying and told my husband that I just want to go home and see my children.

"The 200m was coming up but I had enough of it. My husband said `if you don't want to run it doesn't matter but you will be sorry afterwards.

"And he was right. So I had a good cry and felt much better."

Revered

In the heats and the final of the 200m she blitzed the field and then had the pleasure of running the anchor leg in the relay.

"That was special because we thought it was impossible to win and it was so nice to be together with the other girls and for them to win medals too."

Blankers-Koen, now an 82-year-old grandmother, still lives in Holland where she is revered as the country's finest ever athlete.

And she still follows the sport closely, keeping a particularly close watch on Miss Jones.

"She is a fantastic runner who I think will get the five medals as long as she stays fit.

"And I wish her well. If she breaks my record it is not a problem. I will pleased for her.

"I am certainly not jealous of today's stars and the money they earn. All they seem to do is train. In my day we trained twice a week and had fun - and running has given me a wonderful life."

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See also:

17 Sep 00 |  BBC Team
Rider's legends: Anita Lonsbrough
18 Sep 00 |  BBC Team
Rider's legends: Sean Kerly
19 Sep 00 |  Fans Guide
Rider's legends: Lasse Viren
20 Sep 00 |  Fans Guide
Rider's legends: Chris Finnegan
21 Sep 00 |  BBC Team
Rider's legends: Mark Spitz
22 Sep 00 |  Fans Guide
Rider's legends: Adrian Moorhouse
23 Sep 00 |  BBC Team
Rider's legends: Nadia Comaneci
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