Fanny Blankers-Koen Crosses Finish Line

Fanny Blankers-Koen: 'Athlete of the Century'

Honoring the Dutch Olympian on the 100th anniversary of her birth.

Fanny Blankers-Koen was one of the greatest Olympians of all time, both for her performances on the track and her significance beyond it. At the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, Blankers-Koen won four gold medals in track and field, a number that no one has bested since (though Carl Lewis tied it in 1984). When she made her historic runs, Blankers-Koen was 30 years old and married with two children: Reporters dubbed her "The Flying Housewife" and "The Flying Dutchmam." No one had seen an Olympian like Blankers-Koen before, and her excellence challenged assumptions about what kinds of people could be world-class athletes. In 1999, the International Association of Athletics Federation named her the Female Athlete of the Century. On what would have been her 100th birthday, FOTO pays tribute to Fanny Blankers-Koen.

HIGH HOPES Nat Farbman/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images HIGH HOPES Photographed by LIFE magazine in 1950, Blankers-Koen attempts a high jump. DIGGING IT OUT Bettmann Archive DIGGING IT OUT Blankers-Koen at the end of the 100m at the 1948 Summer Olympics. (She won.) NO OBSTACLE CAN STAND IN HER WAY Keystone/Getty Images NO OBSTACLE CAN STAND IN HER WAY Blankers-Koen running the 80m hurdles at the 1948 Summer Olympics. PHOTO FINISH Topical Press Agency/Getty Images PHOTO FINISH Blankers-Koen winning the 80m hurdles by the narrowest of margins. RUNNING AWAY WITH IT Keystone/Getty Images RUNNING AWAY WITH IT Blankers-Koen winning the 200m at the 1948 Summer Olympics VICTORY IS SWEET Keystone/Getty Images VICTORY IS SWEET Blankers-Koen with her husband and coach, Jan Blankers, after the 200m. TOP OF THE PODIUM Popperfoto/Getty Images TOP OF THE PODIUM The medal ceremony for the 200m. SLOWING DOWN Keystone/Getty Images SLOWING DOWN Blankers-Koen with her family, in Amsterdam, after the 1948 Summer Olympics. GREAT LENGTHS Nat Farbman/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images GREAT LENGTHS Blankers-Koen attempts a long jump in 1950. REPOSE Nat Farbman/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images REPOSE A portrait of Blankers-Koen by LIFE photographer Nat Farbman, from 1950. SHE STANDS ALONE Nat Farbman/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images SHE STANDS ALONE Blankers-Koen in 1950.