Archived: Proud City Supports its Olympians


As the 2008 Summer Olympic Games get closer, expectations are flying high in the City of Commerce as three local residents prepare to compete in Beijing, China.

Boxer Javier Molina and Water Polo stars Brenda Villa and Patty Cardenas will not only be representing the U.S., they will also be representing the City of Commerce in the upcoming Olympics.

And thanks to the generosity of city officials, the Commerce Casino and other local businesses, as well as local residents, members of their families will be in the stands to cheer them on to victory.

Following up on a request from County Supervisor Gloria Molina, Commerce Mayor Tina Baca del Rio requested earlier this month that the City Council consider donating $10,000 to help each of the families with travel expenses for the trip to China.

Supporters hoped to raise the $30,000 needed to cover expenses.

Shortly thereafter, Commerce Casino, the first company to step forward, announced it would donate $10,000.

“The city asked if we could assist the athletes, and we were excited to help,” said Debbie Payne, director of Community Relations for the Casino. “It is wonderful to have three local athletes going to the Olympics, how many cities can say that?” she said.

Brian Wolfson, Commerce’s Public Information Officer, said the council donated $10,000, and the remaining $10,000 came from other Commerce businesses and residents. “It’s pretty inspiring to have the whole community trying to help [the Olympians]out,” said Wolfson. “[The City Council] believes that the family support is very important for the athletes.”

“The city has been great,” said Villa, captain of the Women’s water polo team, during a conference call. “I just want to thank the Commerce City [Council], the Commerce Casino, and the residents,” she said.

Villa, who started playing water polo in the Commerce Aquatorium, is entering her third Olympic Games. “I will probably approach the Games in the same way as during the past Olympics,” said Villa, who achieved a silver medal in Sydney in 2000 and a bronze medal in Athens in 2004. “I want to leave everything out on the water by playing the best water polo I can.”

Villa says that this Olympics “might” be her last. “I am 28-years-old, and I want to do other things in my life,” added Villa. “I’m on the way out.”

Following in Villa’s path, Cardenas also started playing water polo at the Commerce pool, where she met Villa and took her on as a role model.

“Seeing Brenda playing water polo, going to college, and going to the national team, it really inspired me to follow in her steps,” said Cardenas, who will make her first appearance in the Olympics as a U.S. national team member.

“Ever since Patty was a kid, she wanted to be in the Olympics,” said Patty’s older brother Jose Cardenas, who will be attending the Olympics thanks to Commerce’s contribution. “[Patty] has high hopes for winning the gold medal,” he said.

“My dream is coming true,” said Patty Cardenas. “I am trying to focus in on what I came for. I am excited.”

Javier Molina is in training and was unavailable for interview. The boxer will be competing in the light welterweight category.

As the three Olympians departed to Beijing in hopes of achieving a medal, people around the City are preparing to watch their favorite athletes and cheer them on.

“We are big supporters of our community,” said Payne. “We are proud of our athletes.”

“There are no words that we can put together to show how much we appreciate the help of the Commerce people, Casino and City Council,” said Jose Cardenas, proud brother of an Olympic athlete.

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