It's one thing to be crowned an Olympic goddess once in your life, but twice?
That's the story of Anne Warner Cribbs, who won gold in the 1960 Olympics and Wednesday was inducted as the 27th recipient of the Athena Award by the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce.
Now head of Cribbs & Company and the CEO of Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee, Cribbs was honored at the Garden Court Hotel for "excellence, creativity and initiative in her profession; contributing time and energy to improve the quality of life for others; and actively assisting women in realizing their full leadership potential."
"Who has been a trailblazer more than Anne?" longtime friend and colleague Gary Cavalli asked rhetorically as he introduced Cribbs, citing her parenting of nine children, graduation from Stanford University in her 30s and founding of the women's American Basketball League.
Cribbs' swimming career started when she was 6 at Burgess Pool in Menlo Park.
Back then, she said, "I had a bathing suit with a skirt" -- and swim goggles hadn't been invented yet. She did so well, she started training, and as a 14 year old, she won gold at the 1959 Pan American Games.
A year later, she competed at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. Holder of the American records in both the 100 and 200-meter breast-stroke events, she placed fifth in the 200 meter breaststroke in Rome and was a member of the gold medal-winning, 400-meter medley relay team.
"I was so proud to represent my country," she told the lunchtime crowd Wednesday.
Cribbs retired from competitive swimming at 15. Since few high schools and no universities had women's competitive swimming teams and Title IX did not exist, there were no more mountains to climb.
Cribbs' professional career has focused on serving sports and the community. In 1995, she co-founded the American Basketball League (ABL), the first women's professional basketball league in the United States. During its existence, the ABL strove to set the standard for what women's professional sports could and should become, creating a permanent legacy and changing the paradigm, according to a press release from the Chamber of Commerce.
Cribbs became president and CEO of the San Francisco Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee (BASOC) in 1999 and led the San Francisco 2012 Olympic Bid. Though San Francisco came in second to New York City, her work consolidated political support, including mayors, county boards of supervisors, the state governor's office and state Legislature.
BASOC, under Cribbs' leadership, organized the 2006 FINA World Masters Championships -- 7,800 competitors from 75 countries. Cribbs organized the 2007 World Junior Table Tennis Championships, held at Stanford University in December 2007 featuring 196 competitors from 36 countries. She also served as the president and CEO of the 2009 Summer National Senior Games, which featured 18 medal sports, seven demonstration sports and 10,000 competitors older than 50 years -- the largest multi-sport event in the United States.
Cribbs served as the chair of the 40th anniversary of San Francisco's June 2011 Three Day Celebration of Ping Pong Diplomacy. The historic event showcased the Chinese Olympic Committee and their delegation and the US Table Tennis Team.
Cribbs was the director of 2011 USA Swimming National and Junior National Championships, the largest national swimming competition, held at Stanford for more than two weeks, featuring nearly 4,000 swimmers from across the United States. The event was broadcast live on NBC.
Currently, Cribbs continues to serve as chair of the California Senior Games Association and organized the 2012 Bay Area Senior Games/California Senior Games Championships with 2000 athletes and 25 sports.
Other events Cribbs has spearheaded: 2004 Men's World Rink Hockey Championships, Palo Alto's Leave Your Car at Home Day, Palo Alto's Black & White Ball, Welcome Home Olympians Dinner 1984-2012, which raises funds for the Northern California Olympians Travel and Training grant program.
Her public and community relations firm, Anne Cribbs & Company, has worked with clients ranging from the Rich May Memorial Golf Classic, which raised funds to build the first full sized soccer/field in East Palo Alto, to Sephora Company and Venmundi.com, a live-streaming Internet company.
Cribbs is a frequent guest lecturer at Stanford University School of Business, the Sports Management Program at the University of San Francisco, San Jose State and the University of Pacific. She is also an Olympian adviser to NBC Bay Area.
A California native and current Palo Alto resident, Cribbs received her associate degree from Foothill College in 1974, receiving the President's Medal for the outstanding female graduate. Cribbs went on to earn her bachelor's degree in political science from Stanford University.
She is a past member of the Stanford Athletic Board and has a Block S from Stanford. Cribbs was inducted into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame in 2003 and is also a member of the San Mateo County Hall of Fame and the Menlo Atherton High School Hall of Fame.
She received the Palo Alto Tall Tree Award in 1985 and was recently voted to the board of USA Table Tennis. Cribbs received the 2012 America SCORES -- Bay Area 2012 Legacy Award.