USC Athletes Raise Awareness for Breast Cancer
Watching Beyoncé perform her reflective ballad I Was Here on World Humanitarian Day inspired University of Southern California's Giuliana Olmos to make a difference in her community. Olmos, a sophomore on the women's tennis team, came up with the idea of having an inter-sport tennis tournament to raise money for charity.
But it was not until Olmos heard some unfortunate news that gave her a cause for the event.
"I wanted to bring the 600 athletes at USC together since we don't see a lot of them," Olmos said. "And everyone likes to play tennis, so I thought of the idea. I didn't think much about it until I learned that (my teammate's) mom got diagnosed (with breast cancer), and it just clicked."
Olmos proposed the idea to athletics director Pat Haden, who was "100 percent behind it."
"It was incredible"
The event was dubbed the Rose Cup, to honor junior tennis player Kaitlyn Christian's mother Rose, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in July.
Nearly 100 athletes participated, with all members of the baseball team and women's basketball team in attendance.
However, due to short notice to the NCAA -- which has strict compliance rules -- the team was unable to collect money from the event and instead focused on raising awareness for breast cancer.
The setback did not dampen the spirits of Christian, who was grateful for the support and turnout at the event.
"It was incredible," she said. "In addition to the athletes, my academic advisers, coaches and friends back home showed up. I'm very fortunate to have all those people in my life."
Associate head coach West Nott was equally impressed by the success of the event.
"It was an amazing support," he said. "It was a great turnout. At least one or two people from every sport came out."
Rose Christian, left, poses with USC women's tennis associate head coach West Nott. "Just like Kaitlyn, Rose brings a smile every day to our matches," Nott said.(Photo: West Nott)
"Always been my biggest supporter"
Christian grew up near the university in Orange, Calif., and began playing tennis at the age of 8 after switching over from soccer.
Neither of her parents, Dane and Rose Christian, played tennis, and they did not fit the stereotype of the over-involved tennis parent.
"My mom has always been my biggest supporter," Christian said. "She never really got down on me and was always very positive."
The support has allowed Christian to excel in tennis, where she recently won her second national indoor doubles championship with partner Sabrina Santamaria -- their fourth doubles title together.
The duo won the championship match 6-0, 6-0 and are the No. 1 ranked doubles team in the nation.
Santamaria, a sophomore on the team, has known the Christian family since she was 8 and regards Rose as a second mother.
"Rose is a really special part of our team," she said. "She texts me every day. She's really special to me."
Rose, who was present at the Oct. 28 event in her honor, has attended every USC home match, where she often brings food for the team.
"From the moment I met Rose, I fell in love with her," Olmos said. "She's such a big fan, she's done so much for us. We just wanted to give back."
Just the beginning
Olmos has already started coordinating future events, and plans on bringing together the USC athletic community every couple months for a charitable cause.
The women's basketball team has invited the tennis team to play basketball with them and there could be more inter-sport events like the Rose Cup.
All proceeds from next year's edition will go to the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, which was built exclusively for cancer research.
Rose had surgery to remove most of the tumors and is currently undergoing her fifth round of chemotherapy.
Despite the situation, Christian continues to bring smiles to the tennis courts every day.
"I know she's struggling inside with her mom," Olmos said. "But she's always really positive and always motivating people on the team."
Nott, who believes the tandem of Christian and Santamaria are destined for success as a professional doubles team, praised the junior's attitude.
"Kaitlyn is a really outgoing, funny girl," he said. "She energizes everyone around her."
And as her mother continues to battle breast cancer, Christian can expect her teammates and the USC athletic community to continue being there for her.
"She's my best friend," Santamaria said. "(The Rose Cup) has definitely raised awareness for breast cancer and has brought our team even closer together."