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Remembering Olympic Swimmer Ann Curtis

The winner of two Olympic gold medals and 34 United States championships passed away in her San Rafael home in late June. See photos of her in the early parts of her swimming career.

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There is so much talk right now about Michael Phelps' place in sports history. Greatest swimmer of all time? Greatest Olympic athlete? What about just plain-and-simple greatest athlete? Who could discount his 15 gold medals?

But all this chatter brings home memories of one of our own Olympic heroes, Ann Curtis Cuneo. 

Back when she was known as Ann Curtis, there was some "greatest ever" buzz around her as well. The Olympic gold medalist, who died in June at the age of 86 in her San Rafael home due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease, remains ranked as one of the greatest female swimmers of all time.

But in addition to winning two Olympic golds in the 1948 Games in London and 34 U.S. championships, Curtis became known locally for her swimming school in San Rafael. Over the decades, the school has served approximately 40,000 students, the Marin Independent Journal reported.

"She wanted to provide the best swimming lessons to as many people as possible, that was her passion," her daughter, Carrie Cuneo, told the Marin IJ. "That the business survived financially was a side point."

Curtis competed in the Olympics the last time they were in London in 1948, following a 12-year break due to World War II. Born in 1926 in San Francisco, Curtis already won eight national titles and broken 18 national records by the time she went to London, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

At the Games, she won a gold in the 400-meter freestyle, a gold in the 4x100-meter relay and a silver in the 100-meter freestyle.

A year after winning her medals, she married Gordon Cuneo and the couple had five children. She opened the in 1959. Her former students include Olympians Rick DeMont and Ben Wildman-Tobriner.

Marin swim coach Warren Lager took lessons from Curtis and he described her to the Marin IJ as having a "a regal bearing."

"When she walked the deck, that was her place. And to be honest, even now, at 57 years old, even into full adulthood I was always in awe of her," he told the Marin IJ.

Did you know Curtis? Share your thoughts about her in our comments below.

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