Francina Blankers-Koen made her Olympic debut for the Netherlands as a high jumper in 1936. Although World War II deprived her of competition when she was at her peak, she still became the star of the 1948 London Games, aged 30 and a mother of two.
Blankers-Koen was untouchable in London. She won the 100m, 200m, 80m hurdles and relay and could have won more medals, but for a rule limiting women to three individual events in track & field. At the time, she held world records in the high jump and long jump.
She set 16 world records at eight different events – 100 yards, 100m, 200m, high hurdles, high jump, long jump, pentathlon, and 4x110 yard relay. Blankers-Koen also won five European titles between 1946 and 1950 and 58 national championships in the Netherlands.
Blankers-Koen returned from London to her native Amsterdam as a hero. For her sporting feats, a statue was erected in her honour. She was also presented with a bicycle from her neighbours, “to go through life at a slower pace.”