When swimmer Michael Phelps leads the 2016 U.S. Olympic into Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro tonight for the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics, you can expect the procession to take a while.
More than 550 American Olympians have made the trip to Rio – a bigger squad than any other country. And more than one in five of those U.S. athletes hail from the Golden State.
California athletes have long had an outsized presence on U.S. Olympic squads, and that promises to be the case this year as well. From boxing and badminton to soccer and shooting, Californians will be vying for medals – on their own and with their American teammates – in just about every competition that Rio has to offer.
L.A. Times Olympics writer David Wharton is in Rio, and he’s got the lowdown on some of the local athletes, including some you’ve probably not heard of:
“You look at the badminton players who come out of the Orange County Badminton Club. One of the players if Phillip Chu and his grandfather built this club from scratch, and it’s become a real hotbed of American badminton,” Wharton says. “Now, that’s relative term because the Americans are nowhere near the Asian nations such as China or South Korea, and they’re longshots to do well here. But there’s a lot of badminton that comes out of Orange County and this one particular facility.”