Athletics

Wembley stadium was the venue for 33 athletics events at the Games; 24 for men and nine for women. Of these, four were making their Olympic debut Ц the men's 10 km walk, and the women's 200 metres, long jump and shot put. A total of 754 athletes from 53 countries participated in athletics.[16] Fanny Blankers-Koen of the Netherlands, a 30-year old mother of three children nicknamed "The Flying Housewife", won four gold medals, in the 100 metres, 200 metres, 80 metre high hurdles, and 4 x 100 metre relay. As world record holder in the long jump and high jump Blankers-Koen may have been able to win further medals but, at this time, female athletes were limited to three individual events.[17] Duncan White won the first medal of any kind for Sri Lanka, (then Ceylon), when he finished second in the 400 metre hurdles, and Arthur Wint became the first Jamaican to win an Olympic gold medal, in the men's 400 metres he also won silver in the men's 800 metres.[18][19] Alice Coachman became the first woman of color in the world and the first African American woman to win a gold medal in track and field in the history of the modern Olympics with a jump of 1.68 m (5' 6?"). She also was the only American woman to win an athletics gold medal during the 1948 Olympics.[20] The marathon saw a dramatic finish with the first man to enter the stadium, Etienne Gailly of Belgium, exhausted and nearly unable to run. While he was struggling, Argentinian athlete Delfo Cabrera and Tom Richards of Great Britain passed him, with Cabrera winning the gold. Gailly ma aged to recover enough to cross the line for the bronze.[21] The decathlon was won by 17-year old Bob Mathias of the United States. He became the youngest ever Olympic gold medallist in athletics and when asked how he would celebrate he replied: "I'll start shaving, I guess." Francina "Fanny" Elsje Blankers-Koen (26 April 1918 Ц 25 January 2004) was a Dutch athlete, best known for winning four gold medals at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. She accomplished this as a 30-year-old mother of two, during a time when many disregarded women's athletics. Her background and performances earned her the nickname "the Flying Housewife". She was the most successful athlete at the 1948 Summer Olympics. Having started competing in athletics in 1935, she took part in the 1936 Summer Olympics a year later. Although international competition was hampered by World War II, Blankers-Koen set several world records during that period, in events as diverse as the long jump, the high jump, and sprint and hurdling events. Apart from her four Olympic titles, she won five European titles and 58 Dutch championships, and set or tied 12 world records Ц the last, pentathlon, in 1951 aged 33. She retired from athletics in 1955, after which she became captain of the Dutch female track and field team. In 1999, she was voted "Female Athlete of the Century" by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). Her Olympic victories are credited with helping to demolish the convention that age and motherhood were a barrier to success in women's sport.

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