Ann Marie Flynn: Westport’s Own Olympian

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.

Ann Marie Flynn, throwing the hammer.

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.

Ann Marie did not win a medal in Melbourne (She did earn a gold the following year, at the Pan American Games). Still, the Olympic Games were a defining moment in her life.

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.”

Yesterday, as part of the Westport Library’s ongoing airing of the London Olympics, Ann Marie Flynn stopped by to watch — and answer questions. (Photo/Marcia Logan)

8 responses to “Ann Marie Flynn: Westport’s Own Olympian

  1. I don’t know which is more impressive: the fact that Ann Marie was a national champion and was on the Olympic team in the 1950s or that she is competing at the national level in different track & field events today at the age of 73. Great stuff.

  2. Wendy Crowther

    I first met Anne Marie when I was working at the Westport YMCA as its Adult Fitness & Health Director during the 1980s and 90s. One of my Y duties/interests was teaching the game of squash. Anne Marie came in several days a week to work out in one form or another – still fit and still competitive. Among her many sports talents, she was also a darn good squash player – if I’m remembering correctly, she had a USA ranking in her age group.

  3. Great piece on Anne Marie, Dan. Westport has other Olympic connections worth mentioning. Billy Steinkraus, brother of Ruth, was a five-time Olympian beginning in ’52 and as captain of the US Equestrian Team won a gold in ’68 aboard Snowbound, his famed jumper. Joe Folino, longtime Staples hockey and golf coach, was a member of the US hockey team in the ’36 Berlin Olympics. Carolyn Hacker, a member of the ’64 US Olympic team as a gymnast moved from CA to Westport in ’65 to live with an aunt and train in New Haven. She was US all-around champion in ’67 and is a member of the US gymnastics HOF. Dr. Beinfield and Dr. Hughes, remembered fondly by all 1960s Staples athetes, were team doctors for the ’64 Olympic team.

  4. Anne Marie in addition to all these fine and exciting acomplishments & jobs she has done is also an active member and contributor to The League of Women Voters of Westport.

  5. ANN!! Get a little Olympic Tatoo!!

    • hell, maybe I’ll get an Olympic tatoo.. maybe it will assure better treatment in any future nursing home … many years from now. πŸ™‚