PERRYSBURG — When Anna Tunnicliffe Tobias was a youngster in England her parents introduced her to sailing, although she was not very happy going out on the water.
“I hated it,” Tobias said about sailing in an interview Friday evening at Perrysburg High School.
Fast forward to 2008 when she won a Gold Medal in the Women’s Laser Radial competition in the Beijing Olympic games.
In between England and the Olympics, the 12-year-old Tobias and her family moved to Perrysburg. She was a three-sport athlete for the Yellow Jackets — cross country, swimming and track — before graduating in 2001. As a senior she won the district championship in the 800-meter run.
On Friday she was inducted into the Perrysburg athletics Hall of Fame.
“It was really quite an honor. There are so many brilliant athletes that I was fortunate to play with and compete with, even before me and after me,” Tobias said. “To get this honor it’s truly amazing. I am very happy.
“I was very surprised and tickled about it,” she continued. “I didn’t expect it. I am super honored to be part of this induction class. I am very proud to be a Yellow Jacket and everything that it represents.”
While at Perrysburg, Tobias fell in love with sailing after joining the North Cape Yacht Club in Michigan where she raced Optimists and other small boats for five years. In 1999 she started competitive sailing with the Laser Radial and she advanced to the final for her area, where she was the only woman sailing.
“It uplifted me out of where I was. At first I didn’t want to come to America it was totally new, but I settled in,” Tobias said. “I think Perrysburg as a community is quite amazing. They kind of welcomed us in and took us in and it became home quickly.
“Even at the yacht club they accepted us, and we became part of the family up there,” she continued. “I think it was just the culture. Being accepted in made it more comfortable to settle in and start to enjoy what I wanted to do.”
After graduation from high school, Tobias went looking for a college where she could study accounting or business while being able to continue to sail.
That turned out to be Old Dominion University in Virginia. While there she helped win four national championships and in 2013 was inducted into the university’s athletics Hall of Fame.
“Honestly I looked at two schools. I didn’t like the first one, but I fell in love with Old Dominion,” Tobias said. “That was the only school I applied to.”
In her final three years at Old Dominion she earned women’s team All-American status each year. In her senior year she earned co-ed All-American status.
The Quantum Sailor of the Year Award recognizes the top American college female sailor. Tobias was the runner-up as a junior, missing by 0.02 points, while winning her senior year.
After watching the 1996 Olympics, Tobias told her parents she wanted to go and win a Gold Medal.
“But I didn’t say it was in sailing or what sport it was,” she said. “My parents were so supportive. They never forced me into anything, they just encouraged so whatever I did they encouraged me to do and give my best effort.
“They wouldn’t let me quit. It had to be a solid reason to stop something.”
When it came time for the 2008 Olympics, she and another American, who Tobias said was one of the best in the world, started working to earn the spot on the Olympic team.
“We did test events over there (in China). We did World Cup events over there. Between us we won every one of them,” Tobias said. “I knew which ever one of us was going to the Olympics we had a very good shot of getting the Gold home.
“I also promised President (George) Bush right before the start of the Olympics I would win a Gold Medal and I felt I had to pull through on that,” she continued. “Right before the opening ceremony I managed to get my way in and stand next to him for the pictures. He turned to me and said ‘Go get us a Gold,’ and I said, ‘OK I will’… I had that hanging over me.”
After 12 years of sailing competitions, Tobias decided to retire in 2014 and concentrate on CrossFit. Currently she and her husband own T2 CrossFit in Pittsburgh.
“I started CrossFit in 2012, but when working with my coach I just had to focus on the Olympics and not worry about competing — just stay healthy and get stronger,” Tobias said. “After the 2012 Olympics we decided to start competing and qualified for my first CrossFit games in 2013.
“I competed individually for five years and got two top-10 finishes, a ninth and 10th,” she continued. “My last two years I competed in the Masters Division (ages 35-39), winning five individual CrossFit games.
Tobias then came out of retirement in an effort to qualify for the upcoming 2020 Olympics.
However, Tobias and her partner lost a double tie and did not advance earlier this month.
“It was heartbreaking,” she said.
The other Perrysburg inductees are Robin Nesper (1995), Robin Rayfield (1974), Bryan Vickers (2001) and the 1979 and 1980 football teams. The football teams will also be recognized on Aug. 28 at the football game.