Not many small towns the size of Big Bear Lake can lay claim to three athletes going to the Rio Olympians. But Big Bear can.
The small mountain town in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California gave its trio of Olympians a send off July 26 at Veterans Park.
Runners Boris Berian and Brenda Martinez, and shooter Kim Rhode were honored with proclamations from the city of Big Bear Lake, U.S. Congressman Paul Cook, state Senator Mike Morrell, state Assemblyman Jay Obernolte and the Big Bear Chamber of Commerce. The city also offered each athlete a goodie bag filled with gifts including a Big Bear Lake cap and a bag of Big Bear Lake pins to trade with other athletes while in Rio.
Berian, a native Coloradan who has called Big Bear home since 2014, was visibly touched by the event. “Yeah, hard work and everything just definitely, definitely paid off,” Berian said. “I still can’t believe I’m going to the Rio Olympics next week and with my awesome teammate. It’s so awesome to see everyone here. And I’m definitely honored and happy to represent the U.S.A.”
Berian will compete in the 800-meter run in the track and field competition. His first race is scheduled for Aug. 12.
Martinez, who has lived in Big Bear since 2010, is originally from Rancho Cucamonga. The middle-distance runner specializes in two events — the 800 and the 1,500 — but will be competing in the 1,500 -meter run in Rio. Her first race is also on Aug. 12.
“Our group is growing,” Martinez said about the New Balance-Big Bear Track Club. “We just appreciate all the support from the community and all the locals.”
Martinez said she hoped people could learn from her experience at the U.S. Olympic Trials when she was tripped in the 800-meter final. “Never give up on yourself and continue to press through any obstacle. You have to just stay mentally tough and believe in yourself, and help others along the way.”
Rhode makes her sixth straight appearance in the Olympics, having won three gold, a silver and a bronze in the sport of shooting. Rhode, who has lived in Big Bear since 2013, talked about the experience of the Olympics including what it is like to stand on the podium and hear the National Anthem.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s the gold, the silver or the bronze, it’s all about the journey,” Rhode said. “About never giving up, overcoming those obstacles, that’s what’s flashing in the seconds when that flag is raising. I think that’s what has each Olympian coming back again and again. It’s very addicting, guys.”
After the ceremony, the trio stayed at Veterans Park to meet and greet their fans. Rhode let kids try on her Olympic medals. Berian and Martinez posed with countless high school and college cross-country runners.
The Rio de Janeiro Olympics begin Aug. 5 with the opening ceremonies and continue through Aug. 21.