Olympic Memories in Mission Viejo
Sports are an important pastime for Mission Viejo residents, and our community has been home to Olympic athletes and the Olympic Games themselves.
Our legacy as a home to Olympic athletes started with the Nadadores swim team which was first organized in December of 1968. The program was so successful that in 1972 the Marguerite Recreation Center was expanded to include a 50-meter Olympic competition pool and training “warm up” pool, and Mark Schubert joined the Nadadores as head coach. In 1976 the Mission Viejo Nadadores sent 6 swimmers to the Olympic Games in Montreal: Shirley Babashoff, Brian Goodell, Maryanne Graham, Nicole Kramer, Casey Converse and Marcia Morey. Shirley Babashoff and Brian Goodell became the first Olympic medalists from Mission Viejo, winning seven medals between them. In 1977 the Mission Viejo Company added diving platforms and springboards to the Marguerite facility to provide for a diving team, Ron O’Brien and Dr. Sammy Lee became Nadadores diving coaches, and Olympic medalist Greg Louganis joined the team. The 1980 Olympic diving team included Nadadores Greg Louganis, Dave Burgering, Kevin Machemer, Randy Ableman, and Meg Neyer. Because of the U.S. Olympic boycott, they did not compete at the Olympic Games in Moscow, but traveled to international events in China and Japan.
When the 1984 Olympic Games came to Los Angeles, the Cycling Road Race event came to Mission Viejo. The start/finish line and grandstands were on Olympiad (formerly O’Neill Rd., renamed to commemorate the Olympic event), just outside the entrance to Lake Mission Viejo. The cyclists raced up through the homes near Crucero Park, down Marguerite to La Paz, and back up Olympiad. The men’s and women’s races took place on Sunday, July 29th, and Mission Viejo residents lined the route and helped staff the event. Nadadores swimmers and divers also competed in the 1984 Olympics: Tiffany Cohen Adams, Greg Louganis, Michele Mitchell, Wendy Wyland and Dara Torres all won Olympic medals that year. Mission Viejo resident Jeanne Beauprey Reeves won a silver medal as part of the U.S. Women’s Volleyball team.
At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Mission Viejo was represented by Nadadores swimmer Lisa Jacob, who won two gold medals, and Mission Viejo High School alumnus Julie Foudy who won a gold medal as part of the U.S. women’s soccer team.
Our beautiful Florence Joyner Olympiad park was created to honor Olympic athletes, and is named for Florence Griffith Joyner, who became the first American woman to win four medals in a single Olympics at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea. Florence Griffith Joyner and her husband, gold medalist Al Joyner, were Mission Viejo residents when she passed away in 1998.
In 2004, in honor of the 20th anniversary of the 1984 Olympics Cycling Road Race, Mission Viejo dedicated a permanent start/finish line and historic markers which are installed on Olympiad Road near the entrance to Lake Mission Viejo.
--written by Robert Breton, former Mayor of Mission Viejo