One of the most exciting races of the 2012 Olympics was the final of the 200 meter breaststroke. In that event, American Rebecca Soni emerged to break the world record and earn a gold medal.
As Soni receives well-deserved attention for her victory, media outlets will likely focus on her background as the daughter of Hungarian immigrants and the descendant of Auschwitz survivors. What may be overlooked, however, are Soni's roots in California. These roots are significant because they make her another success story in California's tradition of Olympic swimming excellence. Soni herself is a graduate of the University of Southern California (USC) and trains in Los Angeles. By earning gold at the Olympics, she joins a line of other swimmers who have put "SoCal" on the map at the Olympics.
Jessica Hardy is another swimmer who represented Southern California at this year's Olympics. Hardy hails from Long Beach and, like Soni, she too trains at USC. At the 2012 Games, Hardy swam the second part of the women's 4x100 meter freestyle relay, guiding the team to bronze and an American record. The bronze was Hardy's first Olympic medal and she is positioned to earn more in 2016.
As Hardy and Soni develop their Olympic swimming careers, SoCal native Jason Lezak is ending his. Lezak, a resident of Irvine, competed in three Olympics prior to arriving in London. With the 2012 Games, he earned a silver medal as a member of the men's 4x100 meter freestyle relay team. This achievement gives Lezak a total of eight Olympic medals, with two bronze medals, two silver medals and four gold medals. His achievements are even more impressive given that Lezak trains himself rather than having a private coach.
Apart from those swimmers who made headlines in London, Southern California's dominance in Olympic swimming can also be seen in previous generations. Janet Evans, a native of Fullerton, is widely hailed as one of the greatest Olympic swimmers ever. Evans earned three individual gold medals in the 1988 Olympics. She then followed up this performance with another gold medal, and a silver medal as well, at the 1992 Games.
Another decorated SoCal swimmer is Lenny Krayzelburg. Krayzelburg arrived in Los Angeles as the son of Ukrainian immigrants. He then went on to win three gold medals in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and a fourth gold medal in Athens in 2004. Krayzelburg's victories, like those of Rebecca Soni today, prove that Southern California is, and will likely continue to be, a home for Olympic swimming excellence.
Watching the Olympics on TV? Check out the BuddyTV Guide app's new "2012 Olympics" quicklist -- it puts all the Olympics TV coverage in the palm of your hand, organized by time and your personal cable/satellite setup.Nick RaithelContributing Writer(Image courtesy of NBC)