When Ann Marie Flynn was an Olympic high jumper, she received the same perks as every other American athlete. A uniform. Housing. And a spending allowance: $2 a day.
Sure, that was the Melbourne games — back in 1956. But still…
Ann Marie — a longtime Westporter who, among other things, is a former Representative Town Meeting (RTM) member — is no longer a high jumper.
No, she’s not too old. She’s only 73.
She’s just moved on to other things.
Like discus and shot put. And hammer throwing. Just one year into that new sport last year, she ranked 4th in the nation. Okay, in her age group. But still…
Ann Marie was just 18 when she represented the US at the Melbourne Olympics. A year earlier, competing for New York’s German-American Athletic Club, she’d won the national AAU championship.
Facilities for female athletes back then were almost non-existent. She trained in Brooklyn — squeezing workouts around schoolwork, plus a 5-day-a-week, 3-hour-a-day job. She competed on weekends.
But Ann Marie qualified for the Olympics. The US held strictly to the IOC’s amateur standards. Other countries (Russia, East Germany, ahem) did not.
She realized the importance of friendships forged through international competition. She also made life-long friends on the US team.
In 2006, the squad held a reunion in Indianapolis. “We walked in like we’d seen each other yesterday,” Ann Marie says. “That’s the kind of camaraderie that comes from the games.”
She’s following the 2012 London Olympics avidly. “There are so many changes,” she says. For athletes, coaches and television viewers, she says, “It’s like leaving the dark ages, and coming into the light.”
But one thing hasn’t changed. “The spirit of the games still prevails,” Ann Marie says. “I saw it when everyone walked in for the opening ceremonies, and I know they’ll all feel it when they walk out. Everyone there will have memories they’ll never forget.
“Just like I do.”