Long Beach Athletes Demonstrate Mettle at Olympics

Long Beach Athletes Demonstrate Mettle at Olympics

Resilience and pride fuel local contingent in Brazil

By Matthew Gozzip   Athletics Editor

The Port of Long Beach is one of the largest shipping bays in the world, responsible for transporting billions of dollars worth of cargo around the globe. 

Over the past month, Long Beach has become known for more than just moving storage containers. 

The city also recently began a trading partnership with the port of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to export a unique kind of freight: Olympic athletes.

Over a dozen coaches and athletes with connections to Long Beach competed in the XXXI Olympiad this summer across several sports. 

“Team Long Beach” achieved a resounding amount of success while representing their city with character and class.

The U.S. women’s water polo team captured gold with the help of several athletes who have roots in Long Beach.  

Attacker Courtney Mathewson, a former assistant coach at LBCC, tallied four goals in the tourney and is reportedly is interested in returning to the Vikings staff. 

The head coach of the aforementioned Vikings, Chris Oeding, took a leave from his position as dynasty foreman (six state titles in 14 years at LBCC) to be an assistant coach for the women’s national team. 

There was a lot of hype surrounding the U.S. men’s water polo team, a squad ranked in the top five in the world. 

Tony Azevedo, a global water polo legend who grew up in Long Beach, captained the U.S. to a 2-3 record in the competition, scoring five goals at the helm of the team. 

Though it was not a favorable outcome for the U.S., Azevedo led his team to a win in their final game despite being eliminated from advancing to the next round. Azevedo, who was born in Brazil, became the first five-time Olympian for the US in the sport, cementing his legacy as one of the greatest water polo players of all time.

 Tony was not the only Azevedo who participated in the festivities. Ricardo Azevedo, Tony’s father, coached China’s women’s water polo team to a 1-4 record in the Olympics.  

The elder Azevedo is regarded as a premier coach around the world having coached the U.S. men’s national team at one point and for our very own LBSU men’s team. Ricardo is also an alumnus of The Beach who arrived at the university in the late 1970s as part of a student exchange program.

The LBSU coaching ties are intricate all across the field and across many sports, including track and field. 

LaTanya Sheffield, the track coach for the LBSU sprints and relays teams, helped the U.S. women’s hurdles team swept the medal podium in the 100m hurdles. 

On top of that, Sheffield was a main component in pushing the women’s 4x100 relay team to gold in a tightly contested race. Sheffield will be returning to her position for The Beach for the next track season.

 Tyler Hildebrand will also be returning to his position as associate head coach for LBSU volleyball after serving as coach for the beach duo of Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson. Gibb and Patterson went 0-2 and were eliminated early in the competition. 

Hildebrand, a former all-American for the 49ers, returns to Long Beach without a win but gained coaching acumen that can be utilized to assist head coach Alan Knipe.

Alexis Crimes hasn’t had the same amount of success as these other Olympians. In fact, she has never qualified for an Olympic team. Crimes was cut from the national team four years ago only weeks from the 2012 Olympics. 

In a turn of luck, she was inversely called up to team a couple weeks before the start of the 2016 Olympics. Crime stayed resilient and has been rewarded with an opportunity to represent the United States. 

She is now an alternate for the U.S. women’s volleyball team at middle blocker. Even though she is not a guaranteed rotational player, Crimes has taken the experience in stride and proved that opportunities will be given if you work hard enough, no matter how rare they are.

Long Beach is much more than a shipyard, city streets or a strip of sand. 

It is a complex society of individuals from around the world, pieces of culture and people delicately constructed into a mosaic that reflects magnificence and beauty when the occasional light is shined upon it. 

The motto of Long Beach is “the International City” and the athletes competing in the 2016 Olympics have been able to share this with people around the world.

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