Dutch track and field athlete. She won four gold medals at the 1948 Olympics. One of the most versatile athletes of the 20th century, during her long competitive career she set 16 world records at eight different events – 100 yards, 100 metres, 200 metres, 80-metre hurdles, high jump, long jump, pentathlon, and 4 × 110-yard relay. In December 1999 she was voted ‘Sportswoman of the Century’ by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Olympic Games gold 100 metres; gold 200 metres; gold 80-metre hurdles; gold 4 × 100-metre relay (all 1948)
European Championships gold 100 metres 1950; gold 200 metres 1950; gold 80-metre hurdles 1946, 1950; gold 4 × 100-metre relay 1946
IOC Sportswoman of the Century awarded 1999
Between 1936 and 1955 she won 58 national titles at individual events. In 1943, a year after the birth of her first child, she set her first world records, in the 100 metres, high jump, and long jump. However, it was not until the 1948 Olympic Games in London, when as a 30-year-old mother of two she achieved international fame, winning gold medals in the 80-metre hurdles, the 100-metre and 200-metre sprints, and the 4 × 100-metre relay. Two years later at the European Championships she won gold in the same individual events and a silver in the relay. She set a new pentathlon world record in 1951. She made her Olympic debut as a high jumper in 1936 but World War II deprived her of the opportunity of making further Olympic appearances until 1948. She was deprived of more medals by a rule limiting women to just three individual events, at a time when she was also the world record holder in the high jump and long jump.
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