The last five months have been extremely rewarding for five-time Canadian Olympian, Charmaine Crooks.
Born in Mandeville nearly 48 hours after Jamaica became an independent country on August 6, 1962, Crooks celebrated her 50th birthday a week after being installed into Athletics Canada’s Hall of Fame. And earlier this week she was appointed to the Order of Canada.
The member of the Canadian Olympic Committee’s executive board joins three other Canadian Olympic Movement personalities – Daniele Sauvageau, Hiroshi Nakamura and Arnold Boldt – to be conferred with the national honour.
“Canada can be proud of what it has accomplished in sport because of these people,” said Canadian Olympic Association president, Marcel Aubut. “But, more than that, we can be excited about what the future holds because of what they gave to the sport community. They have laid a foundation for incredible things to come. The result of their hard work, dedication and passion for all the values in sport is a tremendous example of what is possible. These are true leaders and the Canadian Olympic Committee congratulates them wholeheartedly on receiving the Order of Canada.”
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, she 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.
“Whenever there is an opportunity to host world-class events in Canada and I get the call, I go,” said Crooks. “I believe in sport in Canada because it can be a real catalyst for change, for self-esteem, for developing communities and sport can really give a person a real sense of self-confidence that they can accomplish things in other areas of their life too.”
The 11-time Canadian champion was one of 20 directors on the Vancouver Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games Organizing Committee (VANOC) and a member of the board of directors that successfully bid for the 2015 Pan Am Games.
One of nine children, Crooks came to Canada from Jamaica at age six in 1968 and attended Winona Public School and West Toronto Collegiate, where she ran 53.32 secs. in the 400-metre event at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) championship in her final year of high school in 1980. The record still stands and is the second oldest OFSAA record behind Julie White’s 1.88-metre high jump leap in 1979.
Crooks attended the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) on an athletic scholarship from 1981-1984, where she graduated with a psychology degree and was a six-time All-American. Six years ago, she became the first female alumnus to be inducted as an individual into the university’s Sports Hall of Fame (former Canadian high jumpers Greg Joy and Milt Ottey are also members as part of the 1976 indoor and 1981 outdoor track and field teams, respectively).
The 1983 Pan American Games 400-metre gold medallist and 1984 Los Angeles Olympics 4 x 400-metre silver medalist has remained close to the Olympic movement as an administrator. She was a full 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.
A motivational speaker, freelance TV personality and World Athletics Gala host, Crooks was inducted into the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame in 2003 and a year later selected as one of the top 50 Women of Power in Canada.
By RON FANFAIR