Southern Californian Olympians rack up medals in London

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This is part of KPCC’s "L.A. To London” series, which will be exploring local connections to the 2012 Summer Olympics. View the series and follow it on Twitter at #latolondon.

Dozens of London Olympians have Southland roots. If Southern California were its own Olympics team, it would be ahead of many countries in the medal count.

Here are some of the highlights: Long Beach native Jessica Hardy won bronze for the United States in the women’s 4-by-100 meter freestyle relay. Family friend Susie Atwood has been following Hardy from Long Beach.

"She’s gone through so much to get there and just so happy that she’s able to get that Olympic medal that she so deserves," she said.

Atwood said her Long Beach neighborhood has hung a large vinyl banner to cheer Hardy on in her four swimming events.

There are two Southern Californians on the gold medal-winning women’s gymnastics team. One of them, McKayla Maroney, trains at the All Olympia Gymnastics Center in Marina del Rey. News of Maroney’s gold spread fast among the elementary school and teenaged gymnasts there says Kevin Baharak, a coach at the center.

"It’s great that they have her to look up to in a gym every day. They can see what it takes to be at that level on a daily basis. It’s really good for them," he said.

The center didn’t waste any time putting up a congratulations on its website. A big celebration is in the works when Maroney returns from the Olympics.

Another Southland Olympian, Matthew McLean, who’s trained with the Fullerton Aquatics Sports Team, stood next to Michael Phelps on the gold medal podium for the 4x200 freestyle relay.

And El Monte resident Kimberly Rhode's skeet shooting gold medal broke a record. Rhode has won a medal for the United States in five consecutive Olympics. Southland Olympians are doing well for themselves and are expected to add to the medal count as major Olympic events such as track and field are only days away.

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