Five-time Olympian and sports administrator Charmaine Crooks has been honoured by an organization she helped establish just over two decades ago.
Crooks was presented with the AthletesCAN Leadership Award at its 21st annual forum last week.
Purolator sponsors the award that recognizes the contributions of Canadian athlete leaders and celebrates the importance of athlete representatives and the successes they have achieved through their work as leaders and change agents.
“Through her continued work with Canadian amateur sports and current Olympians, she has shown the same dedication and leadership that made her a decorated five-time Olympian,” said Brian Collins, Purolator’s corporate sponsorship manager. “Generations of Canadian amateur athletes have and will continue to benefit from her knowledge, insight and, most importantly, leadership.”
In 1992, Crooks and a small group of athletes discussed the creation of an independent Canadian athlete association that would endeavour to ensure the rights of athletes were protected and to provide athletes with a voice at sport’s decision-making tables. AthletesCAN emerged from that meeting and Crooks was a board director for four years.
Despite her busy schedule, she has maintained contact with the organization and was a speaker at its 20th anniversary forum a year ago.
“We are pleased to recognize Charmaine with this award as one of our founding members,” said AthletesCAN executive director, Jasmine Northcott. “She has been at the forefront of athlete leadership since her career as one of Canada’s top athletes in the sport of athletics and continues to advocate and support a collective athlete voice domestically and internationally.”
An Order of Canada recipient and Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) member, Crooks dedicated the award to the future generation of Canadian athlete leaders, especially girls and women in sport.
“May they all continue to blaze new trails on the field of play and beyond,” she said. “I am deeply honoured and proud to accept this award from AthletesCAN, an organization that continues to be relevant to all athletes across Canada.”
The COC said Crooks deserves the recognition.
“This is yet another tremendous accomplishment for one of Canada’s most recognized Olympians,” the COC said in a press release. “Off the field of play, she continues to knock down barriers and represents Canada with an unyielding sense of duty. It’s because of individuals like Charmaine that sport is becoming more accessible and fairer for generations of emerging athletes.”
The first Canadian woman to run 800-metres in under two minutes, Crooks was the flag bearer at the 1996 Atlanta Games’ opening ceremony.
After a successful track career spanning almost two decades, the 11-time Canadian champion opened a sports marketing, management and corporate consulting firm in Vancouver in 1994. She was elected to the International and Canadian Olympic Committees and played strategic roles in bringing the 2010 Winter Olympics to Vancouver, where she now lives, and the Pan Am Games to Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe region in 2015.
A supporter of Toronto’s bid for the 2008 Olympics that was awarded to Beijing, Crooks is always ready to throw her full support behind Canadian cities vying for major track and field and multi-sports events.
Jamaican-born Crooks, who won a gold medal in the 1983 Pan American Games 400-metre event and silver in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics 4 x 400-metre silver final, was a full International Olympic Committee (IOC) voting member from 2000-2004 and a founding member of the independent IOC’s Ethics Commission before being elected to the press and athletes’ commissions. She is also a founding chair of the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) Athletes Commission and the International Board of Directors member for Right to Play, an athlete-driven international humanitarian organization that uses sports to encourage the development of youth in disadvantaged areas.
Widely recognized for her expertise in strategic consulting, global sports, media and corporate directorships, Crooks was appointed to the Canadian Soccer Association’s board of directors last July.