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SLO County athletes stand front and center in China 

Of seven athletes with ties to SLO County competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, two have won medals and more medals are on the way.

Arroyo Grande High School and Cal Poly graduate Stephanie Brown Tafton won a gold medal in women’s discus on Aug. 18, making her the first American woman to earn a medal since 1932. This is Brown Tafton’s second Olympic competition, and she plans to compete again in the 2012 London games.

Creston resident and Cal Poly graduate Gina Miles won silver in the multi-stage equestrian event, spurring quite a buzz among local horse enthusiasts

“Having the talent to even get to the Olympics is an accomplishment, let alone earning a medal. Our local community is very proud,” said Mike Gorby, a horse-riding instructor and owner of Los Osos Equestrian Farm, where Miles boarded her horse while she attended Cal Poly.

Women’s high jumper and Cal Poly graduate Sharon Day, who missed her graduation ceremony last June to place second in a national collegiate championship, is expected to do well in her event’s qualifying round on Aug. 21.

Former Allan Hancock College and Cal Poly baseball standout Jimmy Van Ostrand represented Canada in China, where his team battled with America for the gold. Canada was eliminated for the medal rounds on Aug. 19, however, despite a victory over The Netherlands.

Of the seven athletes competing in Beijing, four are Cal Poly graduates, a fact that sits well with the university’s athletic department.

“We’re very excited to know some of this year’s Olympians,” said Cal Poly Athletics Director Alison Cone. “Aside from being exceptional athletes, all of them were quality students. That’s what our program is all about,” she said. Cal Poly hopes to gather their Olympians for a football half-time show and commend them on their accomplishments.

Also in the limelight is men’s water polo player and San Luis Obispo High School graduate Jeff Powers, who has secured at least a bronze medal when the American team advanced to the semi-final round, which will take place on Aug. 22. Powers and his team now swim on the verge of being the first American team to win gold in their sport in 100 years.

SLO resident and American soccer goalie Chris Seitz also competed in Beijing, but lost his chance for a medal when America was eliminated from the medal round earlier this month.

SLO High School Graduate Ginny Farmer swam for American Samoa, a feat that was a victory in itself for a swimmer who had been on a competitive hiatus and learned she would be competing in the Olympics only five months before arriving in Beijing. Even so, she swam faster than 30 of the 92 women entered in the 50-meter freestyle event earlier this month.

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