The American rower missed out on the 1980 Moscow Olympics because of the U.S. boycott. She led a passionate - though fruitless - campaign against President Jimmy Carter’s decision to snub the games following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
“It is an extraordinary experience to be able to be here supporting the Olympic movement,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s an impossible thing that I’m the senior member of the Olympic movement in my country.”
The Philadelphia-born DeFrantz won a bronze medal and was captain of the U.S. rowing team at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, but her goal of competing four years later in Moscow was killed off by the boycott.
DeFrantz was the voice of the athletes’ opposition and even filed suit to try to win the right for athletes to compete.
“I got hate mail,” DeFrantz recalled. “I was just one person who believed in my right to pursue this goal. There was no federal funding involved at all, and then the federal government had used our desires and wishes and taken them.
“And the sad thing is it had no result. In June, we’re negotiating for the sale of wheat with the Soviet Union. June 1980. It just broke my heart.”
The games went ahead without the Americans.
She lost a bid for the IOC presidency in 2001. After several failed attempts to return to the executive board, DeFrantz won a seat last September in elections in Buenos Aires. It was a significant result for the U.S., which had been without a representative on the ruling body since 2006.
DeFrantz is the senior member of the four U.S. delegates on the IOC. The others are Jim Easton, former Olympic ice hockey star Angela Ruggiero and U.S. Olympic Committee chairman Larry Probst, who was elected to the IOC in September.