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California's Olympic Gold

7/28/2012
Tulare's Bob Mathias was on the cover of the fourth edition of the state record book. ESPNHS

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):

1924

Lee Barnes (Hollywood) pole vault

Jackie Fields (Los Angeles) featherweight boxing

1928

Frank Wykoff (Glendale) track 400-meter relay

1932

Dorothy Poynton (Los Angeles Fairfax) platform diving

Evelyn Furtsch (Tustin) track 400-meter relay

1936

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

1948

Bob Mathias (Tulare) decathlon

1960

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

1964

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

1968

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

1972

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

1976

Brian Goodell (Mission Viejo) 400-meter freestyle

Brian Goodell (Mission Viejo) 1500-meter freestyle

Jill Sterkel (Hacienda Heights Wilson) 400-meter freestyle relay

1984

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

1988

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

1996

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.

Corrections or comments? Email Mark.Tennis@espn.com or markjtennis@gmail.com.