Over the years, several athletes from Marin County have participated in the Olympics. This year there are four Marin residents, or former residents, in the Tokyo Games: Kate Courtney from Kentfield is riding in the mountain biking event; Dylan Woodhead is swimming for the water polo team; Joe Ryan is playing baseball; and Kendall Chase is rowing in the women’s four-person boat competition.
Past Marin County Gold medal winners include Archie Williams at Adolph Hitler’s 1936 Games, Ann Curtis at the 1948 London games and Jonny Moseley at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagamo Japan.
Archie F. Williams (1915–1993), a Black American athlete who prevailed in the midst of the German Aryan superiority myth, won the 400-meter run in Berlin in 1936. With four gold medals, Jesse Owens’ achievements were widely recognized, and understandably overshadowed the single gold awarded to Williams. Today in Marin County, Williams has gained some of the accolade he so well deserved in 1936, with the renaming of the high school in San Anselmo from Sir Francis Drake to Archie Williams High School. Williams taught at the school for 21 years before he retired in 1987. While teaching at the high school he lived in Fairfax, and died there in 1993.
Ann Elisabeth Curtis (1926–2012) won two gold and one silver at the 1948 games in London. In 1944, Curtis at age 18 was regarded as an outstanding swimmer and athlete, winning the James E. Sullivan Award that year. She stood ready to compete in the 1944 Olympic Games but the world was at war and the event was cancelled. Her first chance to swim in the Olympics was delayed until 1948 where she won gold medals in the 400-meter freestyle and as a member of the 4x100-meter freestyle relay team. She also won silver in the 100-meter freestyle. Curtis planned to enter the 1952 games but after her 1949 marriage decided she could not successfully train and be a wife. In 1959 she opened the Ann Curtis School of Swimming near her home in San Rafael. For over four decades she taught Marin’s children to swim and raised three sons and two daughters.
Jonny Moseley (born in 1975) was born in Puerto Rico and moved with his family to Tiburon as a child. While at The Branson School in Ross he joined the Squaw Valley Freestyle Ski Team. His skills had reached a level that, after graduating from Branson, he was selected for the U. S. Ski Team. In 1998 he won the gold medal on the moguls at the Nagano winter games. He also participated at the 2002 winter games at Salt Lake City where he finished fourth on the moguls. Among his honors Moseley was recognized by San Francisco’s Mayor Willie Brown on “Jonny Moseley Day” with a parade and key to the city. After his Olympic ski career he joined other skiers in starting a new television channel, The Ski Channel, as well as investing in several other ventures. He has appeared on many television programs as both host and as a guest, and continues to serve as spokesman for various commercial enterprises.
Rick DeMont (born in 1956) should have been Marin’s fourth Olympic gold winner when he won the 400-meter freestyle swimming event at the 1972 Munich games. At age 16 DeMont from San Rafael would have become the youngest male swimmer to have ever won an Olympic swimming event. But his medal was denied after traces of the banned substance ephedrine were found in a post-race urine test. In reality the drug was an ingredient used in his asthma medication. This was openly disclosed by DeMont prior to the competition. In 2001 the U. S. Olympic Committee admitted that it had erred in handling his medical data during the Munich games and appealed to the International Olympic Committee to restore the gold DeMont won in 1972. In 2021 he is the swimming coach at the University of Arizona and is still waiting to regain the gold medal from the IOC.
Delia Meulenkamp (1933–2013) of Mill Valley was a swimmer at the 1952 Helsinki games. The Tamalpais High School graduate did not win Olympic medals. Rather, she became a media sensation when her good looks caused reporters and photographers to recognize the “copper-haired American swimmer” as the “Queen of the Olympics.” Meulenkamp was born in Rotterdam and grew up in Holland during the German occupation of World War II. She moved with her family to Mill Valley after the war. To represent United States she needed to become an American citizen. Congress and President Truman realized her potential value as a member of the American team and as a result she was expeditiously awarded a dual Dutch and American citizenship. Later she retired as a competitor, got married but continued to swim daily while raising two sons and taking care of her mother.
Andrea Bodo-Molnar (born 1934) won gold at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Bodo-Molnar was not from Marin County but after the Olympics she lived in Sausalito. As a gymnast born in Hungary she competed for her native country at age 17 in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and four years later at the summer games in Melbourne. She won a total of four medals in various gymnastic events: silver and bronze in 1952; and gold and silver in 1956.
Wishing to escape the Soviet domination of her country, she and her Hungarian sportswriter husband Miklos Molnar declined passage from Melbourne on the homeward-bound ship. With 38 others they began the famous Freedom Tour for Hungarian Relief that included 42 American cities. In December 1956 they arrived in San Francisco and soon moved to Sausalito to begin their life in America. She later worked at four Olympics as a gymnastics judge and coached the sport until 1979 at San Francisco State College (now University). She and Molnar had a daughter Aniko but were divorced soon after their arrival in Marin.
Others from Marin attempted but did not successfully compete in the Olympics. William McCurdy of Homestead Valley, for example, was a wonderful high school and college athlete. In 1936 he traveled to Chicago and tried out for the games to be held in Berlin. Upon his return McCurdy’s comment was reported in the Mill Valley Record: “I was sixth on a team of six, so I came back home.”
The personal and athletic achievements of Marin’s Olympians — past and present — are an inspiration to be shared. Although this year the games might look a little different, all of the Olympic athletes with connections to Marin County have dedicated themselves to performing and competing on a world stage worth watching.