The Sacramento region now has a real rooting interest in the Summer Olympics.
It's only with the backing of the broader community from people they've never met that former UC Davis athletes Kim Conley and Scott Weltz are headed to London to proudly represent the United States.
Unlike some Olympic contenders, they weren't blessed with big-name sponsorships after they graduated. Conley, a long-distance runner who got her diploma in 2008, and Weltz, a swimmer who graduated in 2010, had to scrape together the money and time needed to train.
As The Bee's Jacqueline Sahlberg chronicled, it was a struggle at times for both to keep their Olympic dreams alive.
Weltz had to borrow $15,000 from friends, relatives and people in the community to pay the rent while he took part-time coaching jobs in Davis so he could spend as much time as possible in the pool.
Conley took an assistant coaching post at UC Davis and ran road races to win prize money. In January, the Sacramento Running Association gave her $10,000 (raised from the California International Marathon) so she could focus on training.
It all paid off at their respective Olympics Trials, where both were underdogs.
Weltz defeated both the 2008 Olympic gold medalist and the current American record-holder to win the 200-meter breaststroke and punch his ticket to London.
Conley won her Olympic berth in the 5,000 meters by running faster than she ever had to meet the qualifying standard, and by coming from behind in the last 200 meters to get third place in a photo finish. The grant, she says, let her make that final surge to outlean her rivals.
Their accomplishments are a testament to their own personal dedication and competitiveness. Yet, as it takes a village to raise a child, it took a community to get them this far.
Conley and Weltz will truly be representing the Sacramento area when they compete in London. And if they happen to win a medal, a lot of other people will share that podium with them.
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