When the US Olympic Team parades through the Opening Ceremonies in Rio on Friday, California will be very well represented. The Golden State is contributing more athletes to the team than any other state, by a long shot—almost a quarter of the whole team is from here and quite a number come from the LA area in particular.
To get you ready to root for these hometown heroes while they're in Brazil, we're introducing you to the Angelenos you should be watching as the 2016 Olympics gets underway.
Tony is an Olympic veteran at this point; 2016 is his fifth round representing for Team USA. The Long Beach native is leading the water polo team in Rio and hoping he doesn't replicate an embarrassing little incident from a few years back when he was standing on the winners' podium and broke the trophy he was holding while everybody watched.
Lucy is an equestrian, competing in the individual and team show jumping events. This is her first Olympics, though she holds the 2014 bronze medal for team jumping from the World Championships. She went to high school in Studio City and just last year picked up an architecture degree at Stanford.
He may play for Toronto in the NBA, but DeMar hails from Compton and will be representing LA well on the basketball court. The last time he was on an international competition team, at the most recent World Championships, they brought home the gold, so that’s probably a good sign.
One of the biggest stars of the 2012 Olympics, Gabby is back for her second round—at the ripe old age of 21. She came home from London with two gold medals and two other Top 10 rankings. Since we last saw her, she casually wrote two memoirs—Grace, Gold and Glory: My Leap of Faith and Raising the Bar—picked up another gold and silver at the World Championships, and graduated high school.
As a little girl, Whitney Engen really wanted to be a gymnast. Instead, she had to settle for world-class soccer player. Playng for the Boston Breakers pro team when she’s not a valuable defender on the US national team, she’s already got her eyes on the next prize: Attending law school after she retires from sports.
If Anthony wore the gold and silver medals he won back at the London Olympics while swimming, he probably wouldn't be very hydrodynamic. Just as well, then, that he auctioned off his gold to raise funds for tsunami relief efforts, because he's going to want to be as sleek as possible as he races in the 50 meter freestyle and 100 meter team relay events.
This track and field runner has accumulated six medals over three Olympiads and is back for her fourth. She overcame childhood bullying about her “chicken legs” to go for the gold, and along the way became a member of President Obama’s council on fitness and volunteered with sports programs in Lebanon and Palestine.
Born and raised in Palmdale, Paul George now plays in the NBA for the Indiana Pacers. The Rio Olympics will be the first international competition for the 26-year-old guard.
Nareg is making his first appearance on the Olympic stage in the pair rowing competition. You’ll probably also see him waterside watching the women’s rowing team do their thing because he happens to be engaged to the coxswain, and you know what they always say about couples who compete in global sporting events together.
At just 19, Ben is one of the youngest members of Team USA. The Westlake Village resident has just enrolled at Stanford but hasn't even had time to pick a major between his busy schedule of training with the Olympic water polo team and fitting in some surfing when he can.
Badminton ace Eva was born in Hong Kong before moving across the Pacific to her new home in Diamond Bar. She competed in the Beijing Olympics of 2008 but sat out 2012. Now she's back for another chance to show the world how it is done in the singles and doubles badminton events.
When Mikaela was 17 and living in the Valley, she found herself driving by a Muai Thai kickboxing gym all the time and got curious. Eventually she walked in and started training, much to the surprise of her family, whom she describes as a bunch of hippies. Nine years later, she’s making her Olympic debut in the lightweight boxing event.
Conor’s dad competed in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics in the hammer throw on behalf of his native Ireland before immigrating to the States. Now Conor is following in his father’s footsteps, but representing the USA. He just graduated from USC this spring; during his time there he set a collegiate record for longest hammer throw.
Gymnast Natalie moved from her home in Topanga to continue her training and high school education in Illinois, but she still considers California her home. The former ballet dancer is going to Rio as a member of the first-ever US team to earn a placement in the group rhythmic gymnastics event.
Soccer (should we say futebol in honor of Brazil?) Alex was a forward for the 2012 women's team who brought home Olympic gold and now she's going back to see if they can do it a second time in a row. There's reason to suspect they might, since the team also just picked up a FIFA World Cup win in 2015.
When Barbara isn’t competing in track and field events, she’s doing craft projects, hiking and hanging out at the beach. We can relate to that! When she is competing, though, she’s ranking in the top five for heptathlon and pentathlons in global championships, which we… definitely aren’t.
When the 2012 Olympics in London came around, Christen got to travel with the US women's soccer team as an alternate, but she never got her moment to shine. Now it's 2016 and she's on the team for real. Hailing from the Palos Verdes Peninsula, she made her way up to Stanford, where she set the all-time scoring record as a student and was named the country's best college player.
Kim is an elder stateswoman of Team USA. Making a return for her sixth Olympics, the El Monte native is one of the most decorated athletes in the history of international competition shooting. In 2012, she set a record by becoming the first American athlete to ever win an individual medal in five straight Olympic Games and there's no reason to think she won't be beating her own record this go-round.
Water polo player Alex is one of the most recent arrivals to California. He originally hails from the Netherlands (where he previously competed on the Dutch national team) and moved to our area to attend UCLA. Promptly upon enrolling, he led the UCLA team to an NCAA championship and now he's set to attend his first Olympics representing his new homeland.
Howard will be competing on the US Olympic badminton team, an official Olympic event since 1992. He’s new to the Olympic level, but he has a trophy case full of hardware for his men’s singles wins around the world.
LA sports are pretty much in Klay Thompson’s DNA. His younger brother, Trayce, plays for the Dodgers and his father, Mychal, logged 12 seasons in the NBA, including two championship wins as a Laker. Professionally, Klay is on the Golden State Warriors, and he was part of the gold-winning USA team at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Running in the 100-meter relay event, Ariana is a first-time Olympian. Last year, as a University of Oregon freshman, she became the first athlete to win two different individual events at the NCAA championships. In high school she logged eight state championships, a feat only matched by Allyson Felix, now her Olympic teammate.
This will be the first major international competition for track and field athlete Ameer Webb. He picked up four NCAA championships during his tenure at Cerritos College and then Texas A&M. You'll see him in Rio racing in the 200 meter. He cites Dr. Seuss as his favorite author and we can't be mad at that.
Jordan was born and raised in Malibu, so are we surprised that this former surfer turned out a great open-water swimmer? He got started swimming competitively when, at age 9, a local summer camp wouldn’t let him in because he couldn’t complete a 100-yard freestyle lap in under two minutes. Now he holds the current World Championship gold in 10K open-water swim, which he’ll be competing for in Rio, as well as the 1,500-meter freestyle (so he probably qualifies for that camp now).