Ann Curtis: Olympic swimming champion


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The Independent Online

Ann Curtis, who died on 26 June at the age of 86, was a renowned swimmer who won two gold medals at the 1948 Olympics in London. It was Curtis's only Olympics. She took medals in all three events she competed in: gold in the 400 metres freestyle and 4x100 metres relay and silver in the 100 metres freestyle. She would go on to become a paid athlete, participating in water shows and competing in US masters championships. She was elected to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1966.

Born in 1926 in San Francisco, Curtis started her swimming career at the age of 12, joining the celebrated San Francisco Crystal Plunge team. She was unable to compete in the Olympics until they resumed in 1948 following a 12-year hiatus due to the Second World War. By then, she had already won eight national titles and broken 18 US records. "I was lucky that the Games restarted at a time I was still competing. There were awfully good swimmers before my time, and it was too late for them,'' Curtis said in 2008.

Curtis married Gordon Cuneo a year after the Olympics, and they had their first of five children in 1950. Her daughter recalls Curtis's modesty about her success and fame, never discussing her career unless asked.

''We came across the medals going through the drawers and asked 'What's this? It's pretty. Can I play with it?''' her daughter said.

In the early 1960s, Curtis moved to San Rafael and started a swimming school, where she coached for 25 years. Her students included the Olympians Rick DeMont and Ben Wildman-Tobriner.