Two Irvine Olympians

Golf: Rose Zhang

It’s official: At 21, Irvine’s Rose Zhang will be the youngest golfer to compete in the Olympics since 1904.

Zhang, one year into her professional golf career, is known for her steely composure, which she certainly needed while having to wait until June 23 to learn that she made the cut to go to Paris. Her strong finish in the KPMG tournament raised her to No. 9 in the Rolex Rankings announced the next day, guaranteeing her Olympics status.

“There was a lot of uncertainty before then about what the U.S. team would look like,” Zhang said.

She only had time for a quick family dinner in Seattle to celebrate before heading to Midland, Michigan, for the Dow Championship. There will be at least three more LPGA tour events before the Summer Games begin.

For the past year, Zhang has been juggling international golf tours with classes at Stanford University. She enjoys spending the little leisure time she has in Irvine, walking the Jeffrey Open Space Trail with her brother and dining out with friends.

“I was born in Arcadia but moved to Irvine when I was 3 years old, and a lot of my friends are there,” she says. “I really like how clean and neat everything is. It’s so tight-knit and super-safe and always welcoming. It’s a place I will always call home.”

Rhythmic gymnastics: Annaliese Dragan

Irvine rhythmic gymnast Annaliese Dragan says learning that she qualified for the Summer Olympics was “the best moment of my life.”

She’s still hoping to top that, however, when she will vie for the gold in a sport combining gymnastics and ballet with props, including clubs, balls, ribbons and hoops.

Dragan, 18, plans to narrow her focus and be in the moment. “I just want to enjoy the routine and do the best I can,” she says.

Dragan will represent Romania out of respect for her heritage, even though she was born in the United States. For years, she has trained up to eight hours a day at Irvine’s Nimble Rhythmic Gymnastics, run by her mother, Paula, who competed on Romania’s junior national gymnastics team.

Dragan and other gymnasts will perform four 90-second routines, with the top 10 advancing to the finals.

“Ever since I was 6 years old, I’ve dreamed of this,” Dragan said recently. “Winning an Olympic medal would be my biggest dream ever come true.”

Annaliese Dragan of Irvine will vie for a gold medal in rhythmic gymnastics at the Summer Olympics in Paris.