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41 Trojan Athletes are Competing in Beijing

Another 10 Trojans, including a two-time Olympian for China, are serving as coaches.

August 12, 2008


August is a high stakes month for the 10,500 athletes who are competing at the Beijing Games. While enormous attention has been given to the selection of Beijing as the host city and China's massive preparations for the Games, now the focus is on the athletes. This year, 41 current, former and future USC student athletes will represent the U.S. and 15 other countries on their quadrennial quests for gold. Along with its beloved gold medal streak that dates back to 1912, this year, USC can also tout its record-setting Olympic representation, which exceeds that of any other collegiate sports organization in the world.

“If USC competed as a country,” says USC’s official Olympic press release, “its 236 medals would rank 19th most in the world while its 112 gold medals would be tied for 12th most.” Americans know that sports are never a frivolous matter for the Trojans. But every fourth year brings another opportunity for Southern California to showcase an array of student athletes.

Basketball icon Lisa Leslie is the best known of the Trojans in Beijing this summer. She's already helped American teams to gold medals in 1996, 2000, and 2004. She gave birth in June 2007 and joined the U.S. squad in October. She was the Most Valuable Player in the Women's National Basketball Association in 2006, but sat out the next year while she was pregnant.

 Ankur Poseria

Most of the athletes, like Leslie, represent the United States, but some compete for their native or adopted countries. Ankur Poseria is one such student athlete. Poseria is an international relations who is specializing in Chinese politics and language. He's a dual citizen of India and the United States and graduated from Hoover High School in Canton, Ohio. Poseria will compete in the 100 meter butterfly. Another member of the USC swim team, Ous Melloui, will represent Tunisia. Eva Orban is one of best hammer throwers in USC’s history. She has proven strong and resilient throughout, never placing lower than third in any postseason event. Having broken the school record in that event, she heads off to Beijing to represent her home country of Hungary against the best throwers in the world.

Amy Rodriguez earned accolades as a USC women’s soccer player. She was a favorite of both fans and her coaches

Amy Rodriguez

and teammates. Nonetheless, when she was invited to train with the U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team last year, she left USC and set her sights on Beijing . The risk worked out.  Rodriguez made the cut and is set to compete this month.

Many of USC’s Olympians share a similar story. Risking falling behind in their studies, athletes leave Los Angeles to travel around the world, competing in trials and exhibitions, all the while knowing that at the end of the day, their sacrifices might amount to a disappointing flight home before the ultimate competition even begins. Olympians from around the globe give everything for the chance to compete. But for some, the thrill is teaching.

Hongping Li, Olympian diver for China and Olympian coach for the U.S.

Hongping Li never won Olympic medals as an athlete. He represented China in two Olympics, placing fourth in the 1-meter springboard event at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. He subsequently came to USC, though and has coached many athletes to success. Since taking over as women’s diving coach in 1999, Li has coached six divers to 26 combined All-American honors and five NCAA titles. Li helped prepare the U.S. Olympic diving team in 2004 and is in Beijing now to assist the U.S. Olympic Committee. Nine of Li's coaching colleagues are working to support their teams.





Click here for a complete list of Trojans at the 2008 Olympics.

Alex Comisar is third year journalism student at the University of Southern California.