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Fundraiser for aspiring Olympians will feature gold-medal lineup

September 1, 2011 | 12:33 pm

Gymnasts, kayakers, rowers and swimmers seem to get their moments of glory every four years during the Olympics. The training to reach that moment can be expensive, and that’s where a group called Southern California Olympians and Paralympians comes in.

The group, comprised of athletes who took part in the Olympics or Paralympics, mentors kids and holds fundraisers to help aspiring Olympians realize their dreams. The group’s next fundraiser will be Sept. 13 at the Cannery in Newport Beach and will feature an illustrious roster.

Special guests will include the indomitable Louis Zamperini, a 1936 Olympian and subject of the best-selling novel “Unbroken”; swimmer turned motivational speaker John Naber; gymnast Peter Vidmar; four-time shooting medalist Kim Rhode, who has qualified for the 2012 London Games next summer; swimmer Brian Goodell; cyclist/speedskater Connie Paraskevin; 1948 and 1952 diving gold medalist Sammy Lee; and kayaker Cathy Marino. The event will feature a reception, three-course dinner and conversations with the Olympians.

Tickets are $275 per person or $1,500 for a table of six. Proceeds will go to the Koroibos Foundation, a nonprofit that provides financial aid to potential Olympians.

Naber, an accomplished master of ceremonies, will lead a question-and-answer session that should be the highlight of the event.

“Everyone there wants to do this to give back and help Olympic hopefuls who are training for London,” said Marino, an Olympic kayaker in 1988 and 1992. “We have athletes who are struggling to pay their airfare to events. We fill in the gap between what’s provided by the U.S. Olympic Committee and national governing bodies and what they need.

“We know what it takes. We’ve been there. We want to help.”

For more information, contact Marino at The Southern California Olympians and Paralympians also have a Facebook page that includes updates on activities of athletes and the governing bodies of Olympic sports. 

-- Helene Elliott