Charmaine Crooks was the first female track athlete in Canadian history to compete at five Olympic Games. Her contribution to the Olympic movement however, has continued beyond her seventeen–year running career.
Crooks was born in Jamaica to a family of nine children and came to Canada when she was six years old.
“Many of my brothers and sisters ran track and then I started in school. I just kept doing it and I loved it.”
Her parents’ work ethic and commitment to family was mirrored in Crooks’ energetic and driven approach to athletics. After taking up running seriously at sixteen she made the 1980 Canadian Olympic team the next year, but her Olympic debut was delayed due to the boycott of the Games in Moscow that year.
In 1981 Crooks won a scholarship to the University of Texas-El Paso where she completed a degree in psychology. When the six–time All-American finished her studies in 1984 she competed for Canada at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles where she won a silver medal as a member of the Canadian 4x400m relay team.
In her long term career, Crooks also won medals at Commonwealth and Pan American Games (a gold in the 400m in 1983), the World Cup, and the Canadian national championships. She was an eleven–time national champion in the 400m and 800m events and the first Canadian woman to break the two–minute barrier over the longer of the two distances.
At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta she was named Canada’s flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony. The honour recognized her long–term respect to the Olympic ideals of fair competition and service to the community.
“I was overwhelmed and totally shocked,” said Crooks. “It made me as proud as anything I accomplished.”
In 1996 her peers in Atlanta elected Crooks to the IOC Athletes’ Commission. After retiring from competition, she continued her strong commitment to the Olympic movement. She was a founding member of the IOC Ethics Commission and helped to develop a code of ethics for the organization.
In 2001 she was appointed a director of international relations with the Canadian Olympic Association (now the Canadian Olympic Committee). She served as a member of the IOC press commission, the culture and education commission and the Athens 2004 working group. From 2000-04 she was a full voting member of the IOC. Crooks was also part of the organizing board for the 2001 world athletics championships in Edmonton and was vice–chair of the world weightlifting championships held in Vancouver in 2003.
More recently, Crooks was one of the original Vancouver 2010 Olympic bid team members beginning in 1998. She was also one of twenty directors of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Organizing Committee (VANOC) and served on both the VANOC governance and strategic communications committees.
In 2006, she was the recipient of the IOC Women in Sport Trophy.