French 4×100 relay extends USC’s incredible gold-medal streak to 100 years

Clement Lefert played a key role in France's 4x100-meter freestyle relay upset of the United States on Sunday, closing the French squad's gap to the U.S. team by eating into American swimmer Cullen Jones' advantage. Yet, while his achievement in the event ensured that France would get a sense of revenge for its loss to the U.S. in Beijing, it also drew cheers from at least one corner of the U.S. itself: University Park, in the West Adams district of South Los Angeles.

Clement Lefert, on left, helped France (and USC) capture gold in the 4x100 freestyle relay — Getty
Clement Lefert, on left, helped France (and USC) capture gold in the 4x100 freestyle relay — Getty

There's a good reason why plenty of West Adams residents would be cheering on Lefert, too. The French swimmer is a USC graduate, and his gold medal extended the school's remarkable gold rush, guaranteeing that some USC alum would earn a gold medal in each Olympic Games in which the U.S. competed dating back to 1912.

[ Photos: France edges past U.S. in 4x100m men's free relay ]

USC's gold-medal success goes hand-in-hand with the Trojans' penchant for producing a preposterous number of Olympians. There are 35 current or former USC students competing in the 2012 Games, consistent with the school's totals for all Olympics since 1904. In the past 108 years, the Los Angeles school has produced more Olympians -- 396 -- than any other American university.

Those Trojan Olympians have gone on to earn an astounding number of medals, with 123 gold, 78 silver and 61 bronze medals all owing a debt to athlete development at USC.

As for the winner of the school's first gold medal, there were actually two Trojans who earned gold at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm: 100-meter high hurdler Fred Kelly and high jumper Alma Richards. Now Lefert can claim to be the latest in that gold-medal legacy. When put together, USC's current medal haul would place the university as 17th among all nations, while at six past Olympic Games USC alums won enough medals to have landed in the top 10 of the overall medals count.

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It's worth noting that USC isn't the only American institution of higher learning to produce a rather prodigious number of Olympians. In fact, it isn't even the only school in California to lay stake to such a claim. While USC's gold-medal streak may date back 100 years, Stanford has had an alum or student claim a gold in each Games since 1920 while UCLA has seen a former or current Bruin earn a spot atop a podium at each Games since 1932.

There will be plenty of chances for both Stanford and UCLA to add London 2012 to their growing list of continuous gold-medal Games, but for now, both have to deal with seeing Pac-12 rival USC sitting in the clubhouse with a gold medal in hand … all at the expense of Team USA's 4x100 freestyle relay.

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