California’s Olympic Gold

July, 27, 2012
California high school sportsESPNHSTulare's Bob Mathias was on the cover of the fourth edition of the state record book.
It’s not been since 1996 when a California high school student received a gold medal at the Summer Olympics. This year, a gymnast could join the list. One of those last ones also is back at the Olympics this year.

There are four girls who attend California high schools who will be competing in the 2012 London Olympics, which open officially on Friday.

The three who are table tennis players – junior Ariel Hsing from Valley Christian of San Jose and sophomores Lily Zhang (Palo Alto) and Erica Wu (Westridge, Pasadena) – are not expected to reach the medal stand, but freshman gymnast Kayla Ross from Aliso Niguel of Aliso Viejo (who will be a sophomore in the fall) has a good chance to win gold as a member of the U.S. team.

One of the last California girls to win a gold medal – Amy Chow from Castilleja of Palo Alto 1996 – also was on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team. Also winning gold that year was double trap shooter Kim Rhode from Arroyo of El Monte. Rhode will return to the Olympics this year as a member of the U.S. shooting team and is projected to get another medal in skeet shooting.

Here is the list of every athlete who was going to a California high school or just graduated from a California high school at the time they won a gold medal at the Summer Olympics (list according to the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book):

Lee Barnes (Hollywood) pole vault
Jackie Fields (Los Angeles) featherweight boxing

Frank Wykoff (Glendale) track 400-meter relay

Dorothy Poynton (Los Angeles Fairfax) platform diving
Evelyn Furtsch (Tustin) track 400-meter relay

Marjorie Gestring (Los Angeles Horace Mann Jr. High) springboard diving

Bob Mathias (Tulare) decathlon

Chris von Saltza (Los Gatos) 400-meter freestyle
Chris von Saltza (Los Gatos) 400-meter freestyle relay
Chris von Saltza (Los Gatos) 400-meter medley relay
Lynn Burke (Los Gatos) 100-meter backstroke
Lynn Burke (Los Gatos) 400-meter medley relay
Carolyn Schuler (Orinda Miramonte) 100-meter butterfly
Carolyn Schuler (Orinda Miramonte) 400-meter medley relay
Patty Kempner (Beverly Hills) 400-meter medley relay

Don Schollander (Santa Clara) 100-meter freestyle
Don Schollander (Santa Clara) 400-meter freestyle
Don Schollander (Santa Clara) 400-meter freestyle relay
Don Schollander (Santa Clara) 800-meter freestyle relay
Sharon Stouder (Glendora) 100-meter butterfly
Sharon Stouder (Glendora) 400-meter medley relay
Sharon Stouder (Glendora) 400-meter freestyle relay
Donna de Varona (Santa Clara) 400-meter individual medley
Donna de Varona (Santa Clara) 400-meter freestyle relay
Cathy Ferguson (Burbank) 100-meter backstroke
Cathy Ferguson (Burbank) 400-meter medley relay
Dick Roth (Menlo-Atherton) 400-meter individual medley
Pokey Watson (Woodside) 400-meter freestyle relay

Debbie Meyer (Sacramento Rio Americano) 200-meter freestyle
Debbie Meyer (Sacramento Rio Americano) 400-meter freestyle
Debbie Meyer (Sacramento Rio Americano) 800-meter freestyle
Claudia Kolb (Santa Clara) 200-meter individual medley
Claudia Kolb (Santa Clara) 400-meter individual medley
Sue Pederson (Sacramento Rio Americano) 400-meter freestyle relay
Sue Pederson (Sacramento Rio Americano) 400-meter medley relay
Mark Spitz (Santa Clara) 400-meter freestyle relay
Mark Spitz (Santa Clara) 800-meter freestyle relay
Pokey Watson (Santa Clara) 200-meter backstroke

Shane Gould (Mountain View St. Francis/Australia) 200-meter freestyle
Shane Gould (Mountain View St. Francis/Australia) 400-meter freestyle
Shane Gould (Mountain View St. Francis/Australia) 200-meter individual medley
Sandy Nielson (El Monte) 100-meter freestyle
Sandy Nielson (El Monte) 400-meter freestyle relay
Sandy Nielson (El Monte) 400-meter medley relay
John Hencken (Cupertino) 200-meter breastroke
Keena Rothhammer (Santa Clara) 800-meter freestyle
Shirley Babashoff (Fountain Valley) 400-meter freestyle relay

Brian Goodell (Mission Viejo) 400-meter freestyle
Brian Goodell (Mission Viejo) 1500-meter freestyle
Jill Sterkel (Hacienda Heights Wilson) 400-meter freestyle relay

Tiffany Cohen (Mission Viejo) 400-meter freestyle
Tiffany Cohen (Mission Viejo) 800-meter freestyle
Carrie Steinseifer (Saratoga) 100-meter freestyle (tie)
Carrie Steinseifer (Saratoga) 400-meter freestyle relay
Jenna Johnson (La Habra Whittier Christian 400-meter freestyle relay
Dara Torres (Mission Viejo & Los Angeles Westlake) 400-meter freestyle relay

Janet Evans (Placentia El Dorado) 400-meter individual medley
Janet Evans (Placentia El Dorado) 400-meter freestyle
Janet Evans (Placentia El Dorado) 800-meter freestyle

Kim Rhode (El Monte Arroyo) double trap shooting
Amanda Beard (Irvine) 400-meter medley relay
Amy Chow (Palo Alto Castilleja) team gymnastics

More California Olympic Notes

*The only California junior high school student to win a medal is Dorothy Poynton, who won a silver medal in springboard diving in the 1928 Olympic Games at age 13 before she started eighth grade at LeConte Junior High in Los Angeles.

*Not included in this year’s list of Olympians is McKayla Maroney of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team. She is 16 and lives in Orange County, but is home-schooled and does not attend a California high school.

*At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, former California high school athletes combined to win 26 medals. This includes U.S. national teams, such as in softball and water polo, that were comprised of a majority of Californians. If California were a separate state, we estimate it would have been 11th in the medal count, just behind Ukraine but one in front of Japan.

Our Favorite 2012 California Olympians
(Based on where they went to high school)
(listed alphabetically)

*Tony Azevedo (Wilson, Long Beach) – One of many Olympians from Long Beach Wilson, Azevedo is regarded as one of the top men’s water polo players of all-time.

*Bob & Mike Brian (Rio Mesa, Oxnard) – They are probably the best doubles tandem in men’s tennis ever. The Brians, who have been ranked near the top of world in doubles for several years, are twin brothers.

*Tyson Chandler (Dominguez, Compton) & James Harden (Artesia, Lakewood) – Chandler, a two-time Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year, and Harden, a former State Junior of the Year, will be part of the latest U.S. dream team in men’s basketball.

*Natalie Coughlin (Carondelet, Concord) – Now age 29, Coughlin is only in one event – the 400-meter free style relay – but if that team medals she will get to 12 for her Olympic career. That would tie her with Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres (also from California) for the most by a U.S. woman in Olympic history.

*Lashinda Demus (Wilson, Long Beach) -- A former world champion in the 400 meter hurdles, Demus successfully returned to top form after giving birth to twins.

*Allyson Felix (L.A. Baptist, North Hills) – She’s been a world champion in the 200 meters, but is looking for her first gold. In the 100, she tied with fellow Californian Janeba Tarboh (Mt. Pleasant, San Jose) for third-place in the U.S. final, then was given the berth when Tarboh decided not to participate in a run-off.

*Carmelita Jeter (Bishop Montgomery, Torrance) – A protoge of legendary coach John Smith and a late bloomer if there ever was one, the 32-year-old Jeter didn’t get to the big time until she was 27. The former basketball player at one of the state’s most decorated programs is now one of the top sprinters in the world and finished in front of Alyson Felix and others in the 100 at the U.S. Olympic trials. Her brother, Pooh Jeter, went to Serra of Gardena and has played in the NBA.

*Alex Morgan (Diamond Bar) – She’s already scored twice for the U.S. women’s soccer team, which opened its bid for a gold with a win over France.

*Diana Taurasi (Don Lugo, Chino) – Taurasi, a former Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year, will be one of the leaders on the U.S. women’s team, which is trying to make history by winning a gold medal for the fifth straight Olympiad.

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