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Three decades after fighting the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Games in Moscow, Anita DeFrantz -- who lives in Los Angeles -- spends her time opening the games to more competitors. She's a member of the International Olympic Committee and has dedicated herself to athletes' rights. John Cadiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on July 24, 2012.
An athlete and an advocate, Anita DeFrantz has played an important role in the Olympic Games for more than three decades.
As a member of the first ever U.S. Women’s Rowing team, she helped will her eight-woman team to a bronze medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
"It was just a wonderful thing to be there enjoying that moment with people from around the world, whose backgrounds were vastly different from mine, whose futures were different from mine," DeFrantz said. "We were all sharing that moment, which was ours forever."
But her hopes of returning to the Olympics and earning another medal were dashed when the U.S. chose to boycott the 1980 Moscow Games.
While other countries supported America’s decision to boycott the Olympics, they allowed their athletes to decide whether or not to participate. The U.S. did not give its athletes that choice.
"We were told we had to stay home because the Soviets were about to invade Afghanistan," DeFrantz said. "I think we’re in Afghanistan right now."
A vocal opponent of her nation’s mandate, DeFrantz sued the U.S. Olympic Committee for backing the boycott. The case was eventually thrown out.
"I worked hard to get people to understand that the Olympic Games don’t belong to any country or any place," DeFrantz said. "The Olympic Games belong to the world and we needed to be there."
Her efforts made her an international icon for athlete’s rights, resulting in an illustrious career in sports.
In 1986, DeFrantz was appointed to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the non-profit organization that controls the Olympic Games.
Ten years later she became Chair of the Women and Sport Commission for the IOC.
Within a year DeFrantz made history, becoming the organization’s first female vice president.
When Olympic competition gets underway in London, history will once again be made, in large part because of DeFrantz’s efforts.
"At these Olympic Games in London every sport on the program will have both women and men competing in them," DeFrantz said.
Today, DeFrantz is busy providing opportunities for Southern California’s youth athletes as president of the LA84 Foundation, an organization that has reinvested more than $200 million into local youth sports.
"I believe that sports are a birthright and everyone should have access to sport," DeFrantz said.
An estimated 2.5 million children have benefited from this endowment thus far.
"I was brought up in a family that worked on civil rights and I understand the importance of working for the community and giving back," DeFrantz said. "But having that world view that came from living in the Olympic Village and competing and having friends from that time and learning about other sports and learning about other sports I’ve never seen before, all of that has become a part of who I am today."