Former swimming world record holder Pablo Morales was there. So was weightlifting champion Mario Martinez. And baseball player Danny Tartabull, now of the Kansas City Royals.
Before these Latino athletes moved to higher levels, they competed in the U.S. Olympic Festival, the national sports extravaganza that makes its first West Coast appearance July 12-21 in Los Angeles.
The festival, underwritten by corporate sponsors, relies on a core of staff members and thousands of volunteers. It has been held in various U.S. cities every non-Olympic year since 1978, when it began in Colorado Springs.
This year, the festival will feature more than 3,000 athletes. They will compete for North, South, East and West teams in 34 summer and three winter sports. Events also will be held for disabled athletes. The opening ceremonies will be at Dodger Stadium July 12.
Perhaps the most prominent Latino athlete at this year's festival will be Oscar De La Hoya, an 18-year-old U.S. light-welterweight amateur champion from East Los Angeles. He will participate because the U.S. Amateur Boxing Federation is using the festival to select its team for the Pan American Games in Cuba in August.
De La Hoya might be only one of a limited number of well-known athletes at the festival, because most of the leading ones will be busy elsewhere trying to make the U.S. Pan Am team.
Said Dan Joyce, a festival information officer: "It's basically a stepping stone for athletes that people don't really know yet. . . . Seventy-five percent of all American athletes in the Olympics from 1978 to 1988 competed in the Olympic Festival."
The list is impressive: Laker forward James Worthy, Angel pitcher Mark Langston, Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan, Olympic sprint champion Florence Griffith-Joyner, Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis, former ice skating world champion Debi Thomas and Mary Lou Retton, the darling of the gymnastics competition at the 1984 Olympics.
Tickets to see this year's competition, Joyce said, are available at Arco service stations, Wells Fargo banks or through Ticketmaster. They range from $4 to $16, depending on the event, with opening ceremony seats priced at $25, $30 and $35. For more information, call (213) 489-1991.
Numbers Game: Later this month, organizers of the 1994 soccer World Cup will get an idea how eager fans in Los Angeles might be to support cup matches.
From June 28 through July 7, the Coliseum and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena will play host to the CONCACAF (Central and North American and Caribbean) Gold Cup. Eight nations will participate in the tournament, including the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica and Canada. The winner will receive $100,000.
Ticket are available at some retails outlets and through Ticketmaster.
Sports Notes: In City 4-A baseball, San Fernando High won its first championship when David Rojas singled to center to score Abel Barajas with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh for a 3-2 victory over Banning. Raymond Rivera picked up the victory in relief. . . . In the 3-A Division, right-hander Armando Cervantes pitched Narbonne to a 5-1 victory over Franklin. Mike Ramirez had three hits for Narbonne, including a double and a triple.
Van Nuys High took second place in the City boys' 3-A Division volleyball championships. The Wolves lost to Venice, 15-9, 15-13, 17-15 in the title match.
San Gabriel's Angel Martinez won the 3,200 meters at The Masters Meet for track and field in May, qualifying him for the state championships. At the Southern Section track and field championships earlier in the month, T.J. Reyes of Lakewood won the 4-A Division's 1,600 meters and Northview's Joe Garcia won the same event in the 2-A Division. Other winners were La Habra's Mark Gonzales in the 2-A Division's 3,200 meters and El Modena's Brian Valdez in the 3-A Division triple jump. In the girls' competition, Lakewood's Lucinda Reyes won the 3,200 meters in the 4-A Division . . . In the City finals, Locke's Orlando Bustamante won the 800 meters and Carson's Steven Gonzales won the 3,200 meters.
* These are some of the sports and their venues for the U.S. Olympic Festival.
Sport Location July Date Track and Field* Drake Stadium, UCLA 18-21 Baseball Dedeaux Field, USC 16-18, 20 Basketball Pauley Pavilion, UCLA 13-16 Boxing Forum, Loyola Marymount 13, 14, 16 Diving USC 18-21 Figure Skating The Forum 13, 14 Gymnastics Pauley Pavilion, UCLA 18-21 Judo Cal State Dominguez Hills 13, 14 Soccer El Camino College 14, 16, 18, 20 Softball Hjelte Park (Van Nuys) 13-17 Swimming USC 13-15 Tennis* Sunset Canyon, UCLA 13-17 Volleyball* Loyola Marymount 17-21 Weightlifting* Royce Hall, UCLA 19-21 Wrestling El Camino College 14-18
* Includes events for disabled athletes.