WINNER'S CIRCLE: Janet Evans
Olympic Gold Medalist Swimmer
Eldrick Woods was born in Cypress and attended Anaheim's Western High School. Volleyballer Elaine Youngs was born in Orange. Santa Ana can claim former USC signal-caller Matt Leinart. And nearly every world-class American surfer has spent some time in Huntington Beach.
But when debating who might be the greatest athlete to be born and raised in Orange County, that conversation must include Janet Evans. (Well, Fullerton High School product Walter Johnson was a helluva right-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball, but he was born in Kansas. And he's been dead for 65 years. . . .)
Born in Fullerton and raised in Placentia, Evans started swimming laps at the age of 2. As a teenager, she held off doped-up rivals at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, winning three gold medals, and then added a gold and silver in Barcelona in 1992. She didn't medal in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, but she did hand off the Olympic torch to a former boxer named Muhammad Ali.
Evans retired from competitive swimming 12 years ago at the age of 28. She has spent her years since speaking around the world, hosting swim clinics and writing books, basking in the glory of having her name atop the city of Fullerton's Janet Evans Swim Complex, and raising two children. But she has never stopped swimming. In fact, she announced in June that she's making a comeback and hopes to qualify for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. Evans, who turned 40 in August, lives in Laguna Beach and is focusing on the two longest individual events: the 400-meter and 800-meter freestyles.
HER HIGH SCORES
• Crown Valley Community Pool. "I think it's two bucks [actually $2.50 for people older than 14]. It's great." 29751 Crown Valley Pkwy., Laguna Niguel.
• Getting wet with her kids. "We love going to the beach and, of course, swimming in pools. I think it's important to put your kids in the water—the earlier the better. I put my little guy in the water at seven weeks and my daughter at five months."
• Not swimming in the ocean. "I prefer lying on the beach and looking at the ocean, rather than swimming. I'm very spoiled. I grew up with chlorine and pools, and that's what I prefer to this day."
• Wearing plenty of sunscreen. "I don't have a favorite, but I do use a lot of it, and it has to have a lot of zinc in it."
• Breakfast at the Harbor House Café. "I love it." 34157 Pacific Coast Hwy., Dana Point, (949) 496-9270; www.harborhousecafe.com.
• Meals in Laguna Beach. "The Lumberyard is great for lunch or dinner, and Nick's has comfort food. Oh, and Watermarc. How could I forget that?" Lumberyard, 384 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach, (949) 715-3900; www.lblumberyard.com. Nick's Laguna Beach, 440 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 376-8595; www.thenickco.com. Watermarc, 448 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 376-6272; www.watermarcrestaurant.com.
• Defying the aging process. "When I swim, I don't feel like I'm 40. The biggest problem is when people say you can't do certain things at a certain age. But as long as you're not injured, you can do whatever you like to stay in shape."
• Favorite video game: "Ms. Pac-Man. Any game that occupies a fifth-grader's attention must have done something right."
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