I’ve made a mistake. I’m talking on the phone, and we only had a few minutes. Under pressure, I talk fast, and despite how I try to curb it, I’m curt. I sound like a jerk.
So why do we demand that our historical figures be perfect?
Dutch athlete Fanny Blankers-Koen was married with two children when she competed in the 1948 Olympics in track and field. She received many letters from people saying she should be staying home with her children. They also said, since she was 30 years old, she was “too old to make the grade.”
She showed them. She won four gold medals, the only female athlete to have won that many medals in a single Olympic Games. She accomplished this despite training only twice a week before the competition because she was again pregnant.
Comments about her being a mother and wife were rampart. She was called the “Flying Housewife.” A reporter wrote she ran “like she was chasing the kids out of the pantry.”
Afterwards, she didn’t get many endorsements, but the city of Amsterdam did give her a new bicycle.
She faded from history books, although a 2003 biography was published in the Netherlands. Her children told the author that she was a cold, driven woman.
I don’t really know what type of person she was, but if what her children say was true, I wonder about the circumstances of her life. How did she grow up? Was her mother cold?
To me, this report about her character doesn’t take away from her enormous accomplishment.
It makes her a flawed human being. Just like me.
Photo by Noske, J.D. / Anefo [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons