Today’s Google Doodle Pays Homage to a Historic Female Runner

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Today’s Google Doodle pays tribute to one of our favorites in the running world, Dutch sprinter Fanny Blankers-Koen. She was, and still is, the first and only woman to have won four gold medals at a single Olympics (London, 1984). On this day, Blanker-Koen, nicknamed the “Flying Housewife,” would have turned 100.

Born in the Netherlands, the young track star was only 18 when she competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. That year she placed fifth in the 4x100m race and sixth in high jump. At age 20 she set her first world record at the 1938 European Championships, winning two bronze medals.

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However, due to World War II, she was unable to compete at the 1940 and 1944 Olympic games since both were cancelled. By 1948 at the Summer Olympics in London, the now 30-year-old was a mother of two and was criticized for choosing to compete and not stay at home with her children.

Unphased by the criticism and reports of being “too old,” the runner went on to win four gold medals in the 100m, 80m hurdles, 200m and 4×100 relay. Along with her wins, she set a record by finishing the 200m race 0.7 seconds ahead of her opponent, the highest margin in Olympics 200m history to date.

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By 1952 as she headed into the Helsinki Olympics, her age started to become more of a factor. Before she could set any more records, she was forced to quit in the semifinals of the 100m and couldn’t complete the 80 meters hurdles. Almost 50 years after those Olympic Games, the International Association of Athletics Federations named her as its female “Athlete of the Century” in 1999. Fanny Blankers-Koen died at the age of 85 in January 2004.