ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS: Who was the 'flying housewife' who inspired a generation of young athletes?

QUESTION Who was the ‘flying housewife’ who inspired a generation of young athletes?

This was Francina Elsje ‘Fanny’ Blankers-Koen, a Dutch athlete who caused a sensation at the 1948 London Olympics where she earned her nickname.

Blankers-Koen made her Olympic debut, aged 18, at Berlin in 1936 and came away with a fifth-place finish in the relay and a joint sixth place in the high jump. As there were no Olympic Games in 1940 or 1944, she continued to compete in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands while she was in her prime.

Blankers-Koen (pictured) made her Olympic debut, aged 18, at Berlin in 1936 and came away with a fifth-place finish in the relay and a joint sixth place in the high jump

Blankers-Koen (pictured) made her Olympic debut, aged 18, at Berlin in 1936 and came away with a fifth-place finish in the relay and a joint sixth place in the high jump

In 1948, aged 30, having given birth to a son and a daughter and being pregnant at the time, she matched Jesse Owens’s 1936 record of four gold medals in track and field by winning the women’s 100m, 200m, 80m hurdles and 4 x 100m relay. As the world record-holder in both the high jump and long jump at the time, it is probable she could have won more, but Olympic rules disallowed women from competing in more than three individual events.

In 1951 she set her 12th world record, in the pentathlon. She competed again at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki but injury put paid to more success.

In 1999, she was voted top female athlete of the 20th century by the International Association of Athletics Federations. Fanny Blankers-Koen died in 2004 at the age of 85.

Mary Crabtree, Brighton.

QUESTION What are the youngest recognised religions in the world?

Baha’i is the youngest major world religion. It was founded in 1863 by the prophet Bah’u’llah in Iran.

The core belief of Baha’i is that all religions ultimately have the same goal.Baha’is believe in progressive revelation, where religious truth is revealed gradually by God through a series of messengers.

Dr J. Sullivan, Leicester.

QUESTION Have several newly discovered animals been named after The Muppets?

Pictured: Oscar the Grouch, the Muppet character from the TV programme Sesame Street

Pictured: Oscar the Grouch, the Muppet character from the TV programme Sesame Street

Further to the earlier answer, Sesame Street characters are also Muppets created by Jim Henson. While not an animal, there is an orchid called Stelis oscargrouchii named by botanist Adam Karremans in 2015 because: ‘The name honors Oscar Grouch, of whom I am reminded by this extraordinary flower.’

Olivia Fisher, St Ives, Cornwall.

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