This has become the world’s five-ring capital, a place where the Olympic flame is more like a raging beach bonfire, a place that increasingly produces more Olympic athletes in more sports on a more regular basis per capita than anywhere else maybe on the planet. The 2012 Summer Games begin Friday in London, and San Diego — a city of 1.3 million, a county of 3.1 million — can claim 80 athletes who either grew up here or currently live and train here.
And that doesn’t include another two dozen rowers who have wintered on Lower Otay Reservoir for the past several years, which would push the number north of 100 — or roughly one in five members of the U.S. Olympic team. San Diego County has roughly one-hundredth of the U.S. population.
Jarred Rome, a discus thrower who moved here in 2003 and like Schmidt is headed to his second Olympics, put it like this: “When you’re around greatness, you become great.”
There are race walkers and kayakers, a fencer, an equestrian dressage rider, a track cyclist who cut her teeth on the oval in Balboa Park. The U.S. women’s field hockey team relocated here in 2008.