Nicknamed “Little Miss Poker Face” for her deadpan expression on the tennis court, Wills was anything but impassive. A force to be reckoned with, she ruled the game in the 1920s and ’30s, counting two Olympic golds, eight Wimbledon singles titles, and seven U.S. National Championship titles among her stunning wins. But her interests far surpassed tennis. She was a novice poet and painter, and eventually found herself in the path of muralist Diego Rivera. She posed for the central figure in Rivera’s “Allegory of California,” but the mural drew heated criticism for using the face of a real woman to represent California. In his autobiography My Art, My Life, Rivera defended his choice: “…she seemed to represent California better than anyone I knew — she was intelligent, young, energetic, and beautiful.” At the end of her life, Wills gave $10.5 million to Berkeley to establish the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. In making her gift, she said, “What university has a better reputation in research than Berkeley? We can find the answers to why we are the way we are, and gain a better understanding of who we are.”
Keith, a National Public Radio (NPR) reporter, was so enthralled with the 1984 Summer Olympics as a four-year-old that she had an Olympics-themed birthday party later that year. When an NPR editor asked if she’d be interested in covering Sochi, she didn’t skip a beat. “I think I was chosen specifically because I’m not a sports reporter,” she said in a Q&A with Berkeley’s NewsCenter. “We (the reporters) like to have fun … and try to bring a sense of wonder to our stories.” Keith, who recently joined the White House beat after covering Congress for two years, admits that there is little in common between politics and sports. But whether it’s a fiscal battle or figure skating, one overarching narrative is “the fight for supremacy, the competition.” A self-proclaimed “radio nerd,” Keith launched her career as a student at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism covering agriculture, the environment, and other topics for KQED’s California Report. She worked for several member stations before joining NPR in 2009. She also founded and created B-Side Radio, a long-running podcast that told stories you couldn’t hear elsewhere. When she’s not lobbing questions at Congresswomen, she’s fielding their fly balls for the Bad News Babes, a journalist softball team that plays Congresswomen to benefit breast cancer. Follow Keith on Twitter @tamarakeithNPR or her blog.
Winning two shiny golds in London for the 100 free and 400 medley relay, as well as a silver in the 400 free relay, helped secure Adrian’s spot as a favorite among swimming fans. No stranger to first place, he won golds in the 2009 and 2011 World Championships. While at Cal, he was named 2011 Pac-10 Co-Swimmer of the Year and Pac-10 Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and was a 2011 CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American. He graduated with honors in public health. A self-proclaimed “child at heart,” Adrian was nicknamed Bok Choi when his childhood teammates discovered his Asian heritage. Follow him on Twitter @nathangadrian or visit his official website.
One of the top female soccer players in the world, Morgan scored her first Olympic gold in London. She made the winning goal that led U.S. Women’s Soccer into a gold-medal rematch with Japan (which they won!). Equally talented in the classroom as she is on the pitch, Morgan earned the Pac-10 All-Academic honorable mention three times at Cal and graduated a full semester early. Inspired by her childhood heroine, soccer star Kristine Lilly, Morgan dons the number 13, proving that it doesn’t always bring bad luck. Follow her on Twitter @alexmorgan13.
Known for the flower tucked into her hair in every race, Montaño excels in the notoriously difficult track and field event, the 800 meter. She set the Cal record in 2007 and has won three U.S. National titles, a World Indoor bronze, and two NCAA titles. She was the world’s fastest woman in the world in the 800 meters in 2010. Although she didn’t medal in the 2012 Olympics, she won the 800 meters in the trials. Showing her fierce determination, she said on her website, “In competition, the race is long enough that pace is important, but short enough that there’s no time for fear.” Follow Montaño on Facebook and Twitter @AlysiaMontano.
Guinness World Records-holder for the most Olympic medals among female swimmers, Coughlin left the 2004 and 2008 Olympics as the most decorated female athlete — earning a total of 11 medals. She won a bronze in the 400 free relay in London. In an ESPN ranking of the greatest U.S. Summer Olympians, Coughlin came in at No. 10, sharing the Top 10 with such heroes as Jesse Owens and Wilma Rudolph. Out of the pool, Coughlin keeps a large backyard garden and chickens and is a passionate cook. Follow her on Twitter @NatalieCoughlin.
The first Cal athlete to compete in four straight Olympic Games, women’s water polo player Petri was one of the youngest members of Team USA when the Americans won a silver medal in 2000. She was the oldest member of the National Team in London at age 34, but that did not stop her from helping them seize the gold. During her three prior Olympic experiences, Petri has had the pleasure of teaming up with three former Golden Bear standouts (Courtney Johnson, Ericka Lorenz, and Elsie Windes) and her former Cal coach Maureen O’Toole-Purcell.
The 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London will be the fifth consecutive Olympics that Korholz will be a part of as either a rower or a rowing coach. In her final Olympic appearance as a competitor, Korholz captured silver as a member of the women’s eight at the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece. Korholz is an 11-time member of the U.S. national rowing team.
Wanting to be a Golden Bear since he was a child, Vlahos of New York City will cox the men’s eight crew at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. He coxed the California men’s eight to its last IRA national championships in 2010. After graduating from Cal, Vlahos returned as a volunteer assistant rowing coach and continues to promote the program through social media and event planning. Follow him on Twitter @therealzeej.