Char Anderson – A Character of Olympian Proportion
Char is a woman for all seasons. To date, she has or still swims, scuba dives, rock climbs, snow skis, water skis, rides horses, plays tennis, cycles, lifts weights, and has studied karate and gymnastics. Char grew up in Hemet, California, on a Thoroughbred horse ranch. She raised pigs, sheep, cattle and horses for Future Farmers of America while in high school. Char majored in Animal Science in college. It will be far more interesting if she tells you herself…
I was into gymnastics in high school, but was too tall to be any good. (I am 5’8” and was that height at 12 years old!) At the time I was in high school, gymnastics was the only sport in which a girl could letter, and I wanted a letter. So, I joined the gymnastics team, worked hard, got my letter, and it currently resides on the wall in my office. I was a really, really good swimmer, but somehow lacked the commitment it took to get to the Olympic level.
I think I had the potential to be an Olympic swimmer, and am lucky to have many friends who are quite famous Olympians. I met Mary Lou Retton on a cruise in 1999. There was “Olympic” competition among the guests, and with Mary Lou Retton and her husband, Shannon, participating, you can imagine that the competition was especially fierce. I beat Mary Lou for the gold in the three events in which we competed against each other. After the final tennis match was over, she said to me with that great smile, “Boy, you are competitive!” What a compliment from one of the best athletes America has ever produced!
In September 2000, I met many more Olympians. One of the major sponsors had chartered the ship as their headquarters in Sydney during the Olympics, so the cruise line made an Olympic-themed cruise to get the ship from San Francisco to Sydney. As part of the onboard activities, there were competitions in many events, including tennis, triathlon, running, cycling on stationary bikes, swimming, and basketball free throw.
The Olympians on board were kind enough to make me an “honorary Olympian” (as swimmer John Naber wrote in a book he gave me) and we hung out and got to know each other over the three-week trip to Sydney. Two days before we arrived, I was asked, “If we can get you a free hotel and free tickets, do you want to stay for the Olympics?” (I had no intention of staying in Sydney and had an airline ticket home for the day after the ship arrived!) But twist my arm!
I spent six glorious weeks at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney with the likes of Nadia Comaneci, John Naber, Bart Conner, Dwight Stones and Louis Zamperini (a 1936 Olympian!). It all happened on the spur of the moment, and I am so thankful that I trusted my gut and went for it! I met so many of my heroes at that Olympics (including a 15 year old Michael Phelps and his lovely mother, who gave me a handmade button to wear in support of her son) that I can honestly say it was the best six weeks of my life.
Now, it’s my turn again with a non sequitur: After growing up in California, Char spent twenty years living in Hawaii (sea level) before moving back to the mainland in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (6237 feet above sea level – oxygen tank optional). She lives at the base of a mountain with her British import husband, Ron, and her Hungarian Vizsla, Arazi the Wonder Dog.
Char’s website: http://charanderson.com
Follow Char on twitter: http://twitter.com/char_anderson
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/charleneanderson