They’re swimmers and wrestlers, runners and kayakers.

Together they’ve won four gold, four silver and two bronze medals.

Some failed to reach the podium, but the fact they had a shot is in itself remarkable.

They are the Kern County athletes who have competed in the Olympics, or at least the most complete list of them we could compile.

With the games going on in Rio this month — and Kern County celebrating its 150th anniversary this year — we thought it would be fun to take a look back at them.

This may not be a complete list. If you have additions, send them our way. We would be happy to update.


Olympics: 1904, St. Louis

Sport: Track and field

How he did: Kern County's first Olympian and a Stanford University standout, Miller competed in the 1,500 meters but failed to qualify for the finals. 

What he did later: Miller also qualified for the 1908 London Olympics but did not compete. He died on March 7, 1952, at age 65.


Olympics: 1932, Los Angeles

Sport: Track and field

How he did: A San Francisco native, Chisholm finished ninth in the 50-kilometer race walk.

What he did later: He moved to Bakersfield after the Olympics and became an Olympics booster and motivational speaker, according to former Californian sports editor Larry Press. When he made his rounds, he called it the “Chisholm Trail.” He died in Bakersfield in 1996.


Olympics: 1936, Berlin

Sport: Track and field

How he did: The former Bakersfield High, Bakersfield College and UCLA track star won a silver medal as a member of the 1,600-meter relay team that finished behind Great Britain.

What he did later: Young was involved in farming in San Luis Obispo County and died in 2011.


Olympics: 1956, Melbourne

Sport: Track and field

How he did: A graduate of Delano High and UC Berkeley, King won gold running the second leg of the men’s 400 relay, along with Ira Murchison, Thane Baker and Bobby Morrow.

What he did later: After retiring from athletics, King returned to his job as a schoolteacher, living in Delano. He died in 2001.


Olympics: 1956, Melbourne

Sport: Track and field

How he did: A letterman in football, track, baseball and basketball at Delano High, Spurrier placed sixth in the 800-meter run.

What he did later: Spurrier, who also competed at UC Berkeley, went on to enlist in the U.S. Air Force and became a jet pilot, according to The Bear Insider. He attended Harvard Business School and began a career in financial management on Wall Street, it said. He eventually returned to the Bay Area and died in 2015, the publication said.


Olympics: 1960, Rome

Sport: Swimming

How he did: A Bakersfield High School Driller, Blick was a member of the 800-meter freestyle relay team that not only won gold but set Olympic and world records.

What he did later: Blick, who also competed in football, track, baseball and basketball at BHS, first coached at Foothill High School, then went on to teach high school math and PE in Cupertino and Kingsburg.


Olympics: 1980, Moscow (boycotted)

How he did: Azevedo, a Modesto native and national champion for Cal State Bakersfield, made the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that boycotted the games in the Soviet Union. He reached as high as No. 4 in the world freestyle rankings and was an alternate for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

What he did later: Azevedo became one of California’s greatest prep wrestling coaches at Santa Ana-Calvary Chapel and later coached at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.


Olympics: 1980, Moscow (boycotted); 1984, Los Angeles; 1988, Seoul; 1992, Barcelona

How he did: Fuller, a Greco-Roman wrestler who competed at CSUB, was a rare four-time Olympian but never took home a medal.

What he did later: Fuller lives in the Salt Lake City area.


Olympics: 1984, Los Angeles

How he did: After a record-setting 55-0 national championship season at CSUB in 1979-1980, Gonzales, a bronze medalist at the 1982 World Championships, lost both of his matches in the 1984 Olympics.

What he did later: Gonzales won two more national freestyle championships after 1984 and later served as an assistant coach at Arizona State.


Olympics: 1988, Seoul; 1992, Barcelona

Sport: Wrestling

How he did: A four-year letter man at Cal State Bakersfield, and Bakersfield resident from 1979-87, Vanni was an alternate on the U.S. Olympic team in 1984, placed 4th in the Seoul Games in 1988, and came in 5th in the Barcelona Games in 1992.

What he did later: Vanni went on to coach wrestling at Porterville High School.


Olympics: 1992, Barcelona; 1996, Atlanta

Sport: Wrestling

How he did: Saunders didn’t medal in 1992 but won the silver on home soil in 1996.

What he did later: Saunders, who won a Division II national championship at CSUB as a freshman before transferring to Arizona State, competed in mixed martial arts and lives in Arizona.


Olympics: 1996, Atlanta

Sport: Wrestling (coach)

How he did: After narrowly missing the Olympics as a wrestler when he lost in the U.S. Trials to legendary Dan Gable in 1972, Seay became a legend in his own right, winning 177 of 191 duals at South High and then national titles in college — seven of them in Division II at CSUB and two more in Division I at Oklahoma State — before becoming the U.S. freestyle coach. His U.S. athletes won three gold medals, a silver and a bronze in Atlanta.


Olympics: 1996, Atlanta

Sport: Track and field

How she did: A graduate of Burroughs High School in Ridgecrest, she competed in discus.

What she did later: Online sources say she went on to teach psychology at Reedley College.


Olympics: 2004, Athens

Sport: Rowing

How he did: Sitting in the fourth seat, starboard side, the BHS graduate earned a gold medal in the men's eight event, the first U.S. gold medal in the event since 1960.

What he did later: Hansen, who studied industrial engineering at Oregon State, is plant manager for Mars Petcare in Victorville, which makes dog and cat food. He lives in Rancho Cucamonga with his wife, Erin, and two children, Brooke and Brandon — both swimmers, he said.


Olympics: 2004, Athens; 2008, Beijing

Sport: Swimming

How he did: Jensen, who attended Garces Memorial High School for three years, won the silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics in the 1,500 meters in 14:45.29 and bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games in the 400-meter freestyle in 3:42.78.

What he did later: Jensen served as a Navy SEAL until 2015. He’s currently attending the Stanford Graduate School of Business.


Olympics: 1996, Atlanta

Sport: Kayaking

How he did: An Atlanta native, Giddens fulfilled a dream that’s not possible for many when he competed in a hometown Olympics. He finished 20th in the K-1 slalom race.

What he did later: Giddens lives in Kernville and owns Kern River Brewing Company with his wife, 2004 Olympian Rebecca Giddens, whom he coached in two Olympic appearances. He was a kayaking judge in the 2008 Olympics and served as a color analyst for NBC’s canoe/kayak coverage during the 2012 and 2016 summer games.


Olympics: 2000, Sydney; 2004, Athens

Sport: Kayaking

How she did: Giddens finished sixth in Sydney and then won a silver medal in Athens in the K-1 slalom event, finishing behind only Elena Kaliska of Slovakia.

What she did later: She lives in Kernville and owns Kern River Brewing Company with her husband, 1996 Olympian Eric Giddens.


Olympics: 2004, Athens

Sport: Swimming

How he did: The 1997 Stockdale High School graduate won the bronze medal in the 400-meter freestyle relay. He missed making the U.S. Olympic team in 2008 by .13 of a second in the fastest 100-meter qualifying race in history.

What he did later: Woodward owns Bakersfield Swim Academy.


Olympics: 2008, Beijing

Sport: Track and field

How he did: Nelson, a Taft Union High School alumnus, competed in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase. He failed to advance into the final.

What he did later: Nelson, a University of Colorado graduate, reached the 3,000-meter steeplechase finals of the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2012 but finished eighth.


Olympics: 2012, London (for Sri Lanka)

Sport: Track and field

How she did: The Bakersfield Christian High School and UC San Diego graduate, whose mother is Sri Lankan, placed ninth among nine runners in the fifth and final heat race of the 400-meter hurdles and failed to qualify for the next round. Merrill's time was 57.15 seconds.



Olympics: 2012, London

Sport: Wrestling

How he did: Varner won a gold medal in the 96-kg. category. He returned to the Olympic Trials in 2016 but finished second in a close best-of-three match in the finals against current Olympian Kyle Snyder.

What he did later: Varner is an assistant coach at Penn State University, where he trains. He has not announced his intentions for the next Olympic cycle.


Olympics: 2012, London

Sport: Track cycling

How he did: A Stockdale High grad, Watkins finished sixth in men's sprint track cycling.

What he did later: Watkins is a Kern County Fire Department engineer, usually working out of Taft.

SOURCES: Bob Elias Hall of Fame, Californian archives (unless otherwise noted)

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