It is sometimes said of certain athletes that they "transformed the game," be it through changing an approach to the sport, inspiring the creation of new rules, or in some way altering how the game is played.
Anita DeFrantz did just that for the Olympic Games. Named by Newsweek as one of the "150 Women Who Shake the World" and Sports Illustrated as one of the "101 Most Influential Minorities in Sports," DeFrantz has used her platform in the Olympic Movement to advance fairness in sports. She's fought sexual harassment, helped change outdated gender verification rules, pushed forward the introduction of women's Olympic soccer and softball teams, cracked down on doping, influenced new eligibility requirements, and more. With unwavering tenacity, she even took on a U.S. president who used Olympic athletes as leverage in the Cold War.
In My Olympic Life, readers will learn how an African-American girl from racially-charged and segregated Indianapolis in the 1950s and '60s, who went to a high school with no sports for girls, grew up to not only lead the first woman's U.S. Olympic rowing team to a bronze medal in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games but to become an active member in national and international sporting and Olympic organizations, including becoming the first woman vice president of the International Olympics Committee. Her story is more than a civil rights and sporting victory for one person. It reveals how with grit and passion, one person can change the game positively for all.
Growing up in a family active in promoting civil rights, Anita DeFrantz knew the importance of letting her voice be heard as an African-American and as a woman. Her activism for individual rights and her ascent as a leader began in earnest in college, where she was sophomore class president, chairman of the student judiciary committee her junior year, author of a student bill of rights, and a house fellow monitoring fellow student dorm residents her senior year.
DeFrantz also joined the college's basketball and rowing teams. She excelled at rowing and continued training in that sport throughout law school. She competed in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, the first time woman's rowing was a part of the Olympics Games, and led her eight-member team to a bronze medal.
Nearly from the onset of her involvement in the Olympic community, DeFrantz found a new direction for her voice: to be the champion of athletes everywhere. Her rowing background and experience as an Olympian matched with her legal training, powers of persuasion, and passion for equality and inclusion, propelled her to speak out on behalf of Olympians and eventually to gain access and even leadership at the upper echelons of the Olympian world, where she remains to this day, fighting for equality in sports and promoting the Olympic ideal of "fair play and mutual respect."