Olympians parade through Long Beach
Published: Sunday, September 16, 2012
Updated: Sunday, September 16, 2012 18:09
Cal State Long Beach freshman Charlene Dethlefsen sported her “Made in USA” tank top Saturday afternoon in Belmont Shore as she eagerly waited to see her favorite Olympian from the 2012 London games, Misty May-Treanor.
“I get excited for anything related to the Olympics,” Dethlefsen said, “But I’m especially excited to see Misty May.”
Dethlefsen was one of thousands to crowd into the streets to cheer on her local star athletes-turned-Olympians as part of Long Beach’s first official Olympian Parade.
Nearly two dozen athletes from the 2012 London Olympics and previous games joined together in the parade, including 2012 swimming gold medalist Jessica Hardy and three-time beach volleyball gold medalist and Cal State Long Beach alumna May-Treanor.
Led by the CSULB Pep Band, the parade featured a caravan of Olympians being driven down Second Street in fire trucks, classic and vintage cars and even rickshaw pedicabs.
Each vehicle paused outside of Legends, the popular sports bar and grill that sponsored the ceremony, as Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster and Legends co-owner John Morris announced and fist-bumped each Olympian.
“I think it’s awesome,” Morris said. “It’s just a way of saluting the people that have put in so much time and energy into representing not only our city but our country.”
Other Long Beach Olympians at the parade included John Rambo (1962, high jump), Lashinda Demus (2004 and 2012, track and field) and Bryshon Nellum (2012, track and field), who carried the U.S. flag during the London Games’ closing ceremony.
The parade was made possible through a joint effort between the city and the Long Beach Century Club, a nonprofit organization comprised of prominent sports enthusiasts who dedicate their time to raising money for amateur athletics throughout the city.
“We work with all of our athletes from middle school, high school and our colleges,” Gary Cohee, last year’s club president, said.
Cohee said it’s important to support children so they have the opportunity to become successful athletes in the future, like the Olympians in the parade.
The parade was followed by a public “meet and greet,” hosted by the Century Club at the Alamitos Bay restaurant, McKenna’s on the Bay. There, May-Treanor posed for photographs and hugged and thanked her fans.
“It’s fun to see the community out supporting not only its athletes but also what the city has to offer,” May-Treanor said.
Before becoming a three-time Olympic gold medalist in beach volleyball, May-Treanor was a CSULB champion as she played for the 49ers women’s volleyball team from 1995 to 1999.
“We were the first team to have a full season in the Pyramid when it was built, and we packed that Pyramid,” she said. “It was the best experience.”
As starting setter and team captain in 1998, May-Treanor led the 49ers to its first Division 1 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship with an unprecedented 36-0 record.
“Long Beach State is known for its volleyball program,” May-Treanor said. “That’s what helped shape me as an athlete and how I was able to further [my career] and be the Olympian that I am.”
Another CSULB alumnus-turned-Olympian, 1972 men’s basketball silver medalist Ed Ratleff, played for CSULB from 1969 to 1973 and led his team twice to the NCAA West Regional final.
“You just have to play hard and practice all the time,” Ratleff said. “Like what people say in life, anything you want to do you actually can do if you put your mind to it.”