By Tadzio Garcia
Former East Los Angeles College Husky Kenneth Medwood’s 2012 Olympics run ended while local athlete Kim Rhode became the first American to win a medal in five consecutive Olympic Games.
Medwood, representing Belize, was one of 24 athletes that advanced to the 400-meter hurdles semifinals out of the first round. Medwood, who was the flag bearer for Belize in the opening ceremonies, clocked in at 49.87 seconds, 5th in his heat, but did not advance to the finals.
Medwood ran 49.78 in the first round to qualify for the semifinals placing fourth in his heat. The first three runners in each heat qualified as well as the next six fastest times. Medwood advanced as the last qualifier, No. 24 out of 50 first round runners.
In the semifinals, Medwood placed ahead of several runners including the top runners in the 400 hurdles from Cuba, Italy and Ukraine.
Medwood was three-time All-American at ELAC and graduated from Roosevelt High School. In 2008, Medwood defended his California Community College Athletic Association track and field 400 hurdles state title.
All three Americans, Angelo Taylor, Kerron Clement and Michael Tinsley advanced to the 400 hurdles finals with Tinsley winning the silver medal.
Felix Sanchez, who represented the Dominican Republic and is a former athlete from San Diego Mesa College, won the gold. Sanchez was the oldest, at 34, of the 50 athletes competing in the 400 hurdles.
In the men’s Olympic 3,000-meter steeplechase, Team USA’s Evan Jager and Donald Cabral placed 6th and 8th respectively.
Former Husky Oscar Ogwaro qualified for the Olympic Trials in the steeplechase and the marathon. Ogwaro was in 34th place out of 111 runners in the marathon, but dropped out during the 18th mile.
Ogwaro was three-time All-American for ELAC in 2007 winning three CCCAA track and field state titles, the steeplechase, the 10,000-meter run and the 5,000 run. In 2006, Ogwaro won the CCCAA individual cross country state title leading the Huskies men’s team to a second place finish.
“When Ogwaro left local Wilson High School, he was at every local summer All-Comers track and field meets. You could see he was something special. He was recruited to join the track and field team at East Los Angeles College,” said David Loera, then Hollywood High coach and current ELAC assistant coach in track and field.
Ogwaro currently improves his times each year and could return to the Olympic trials in four years. He currently runs Olympic “B” standard times in the men’s steeplechase and the men’s 10,000 run. In the 10,000, he is closing in on an “A” standard automatic qualifying time.
Local athlete wins historic gold
Kim Rhode from El Monte is the first American to win an individual medal in five consecutive Olympic Games after winning the gold medal in the women’s shooting skeet final.
Rhode tied her own world record in the process of shooting 99 of 100 clays.
Rhode broke the Olympic record in the qualifying round completing 74 out of 75 hits. In the process, Rhode overcame Mother Nature and her disruptive wind and rain conditions.
Rhode’s Olympic medal total began with winning the women’s double trap shooting in the Atlanta Games (1996). At 17, she became the youngest female gold medalist in Olympic shooting history.
Adding bronze in Sydney (2000), Rhode also won gold in Athens (2004). Women’s double trap shooting was then eliminated from Olympic competition shortly after the Games in Athens.
Rhode added silver in women’s skeet shooting in Beijing (2008).
“I do not see myself quitting any time soon,” Rhode told reporters after her London victory.
“I’m looking forward to 2016 (Olympics) and a few more after that. The oldest Olympic medalist was a shooter and he was 72, so I still have a few more in me,” Rhode said.
Local Olympians’ badminton run
The U.S. sent three athletes who all train in Orange County. They were eliminated in the opening round.
The U.S.’s team of Howard Bach and Tony Gunawan was eliminated in the group play stage. They lost to teams form Korea, 14-21, 19-21, Malaysia, 12-21, 14-21 and China, 15-21, 15-21.
“I played against Howard Bach in the USA Badminton Junior Nationals when I was16 and he was fourteen. He was an aggressive, powerful player with an explosive jump smash and look where it got him,” said ELAC Badminton Coach Qui Nguy. Nguy won the doubles title that year.
Bach and Gunawan won the U.S.’s first ever gold medal in World Badminton Championships men’s doubles, in 2005 in front of a home crowd, at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim.
Olympian Rena Wang, from Arcadia, was eliminated in the women’s badminton singles group play stage losing to China’s Xin Wang, 8-21, 6-21.
“She (Rena Wang) had to be very dedicated to qualify for the Olympics. She basically had to work with independent studies while competing in many tournaments for two years,” said Nguy.
Rena Wang came into the London Olympics off the heels of winning the 2011 individual women’s gold medal at the Peru Invitational and the silver medal in women’s doubles with her sister Iris Wang. They are both hopefuls to make the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team.
Local Olympian ousted in Boxing
Local bantamweight boxer Joseph Diaz, Jr. of South El Monte, started an American surge of Team USA’s boxers going 4-0 in first round boxing matches; however, all four American boxers lost in the second round.
Diaz threw the first punch in the 2012 Olympics boxing matches en route to a 19-9 upset victory over Ukrainian boxer Pavlo Ishchenko. After the match Diaz told reporters, “He had a really tight guard, and so the right hook was the key to get around it.”
Diaz, who says he will now move on to professional boxing, lost 15-21, to top-seeded Lazaro Alvarez Estrada of Cuba in the round of sixteen.