Anne Ottenbrite took to swimming early, entering the pool at the age of only three. Yet upon witnessing Nadia Comăneci's performance at the 1976 Summer Olympics and professing her desire to become an Olympic champion, her thoughts did not immediately turn to aquatics. She took up competitive aquatics only after trying her hand in tennis and figure skating, but was sufficiently talented to make the Canadian national swimming team in 1981. She burst onto the international scene in 1982, winning silver and bronze in the 100 and 200 meter breaststroke events respectively at the World Championships. She followed this up with gold in the 200 m breaststroke and the 4×100 m medley relay (with Cheryl Gibson, Michelle MacPherson, and Maureen New) and silver in the 100 m breaststroke at that year's Commonwealth Games. A favorite in the 200 m at the 1983 Pan American Games, she was disqualified from that event for an allegedly illegal kick, but captured gold in the 100 m and silver in the 4×100 m medley relay. She then prepared for the 1984 Summer Olympics, but was unable to participate in the trials after dislocating her kneecap in a fall. Despite this, she was given a spot on the delegation, a wise decision on behalf of the Canadians, as she won a medal in every event in which she participated: gold in the 200 m, silver in the 100 m, and bronze in the 4×100 m medley relay (alongside MacPherson, Reema Abdo, and Pam Rai). As of 2012 she remains the only Canadian female to have won a gold medal at the Olympics.
Ottenbrite entered the University of Southern California in her Olympic year and retired from the Canadian national team in 1986, having won five Canadian national championships. She transferred to Wilfred Laurier University in 1987, graduated in 1990, and has since worked as a coach for numerous clubs, Swim Ontario, Wilfred Laurier, and the University of Guelph. Among her many honors are twice being named Canadian Female Swimmer of the Year (1982 and 1983) and induction into the Canadian Olympic (1985), Canadian Aquatic (1986), Canada's Sport (1994), and International Swim (1999) Halls of Fame and the Order of Canada (1984).