The latest episode of the Just Women’s Sports podcast is here.
In this week’s conversation, host Kelley O’Hara talks with Maggie Steffens about her decorated water polo career, realizing her Olympic dreams, and her family’s role in her success.
Maggie Steffens’ historic water polo career almost seems inevitable — especially considering her parents met because of the sport.
Steffens’ father, a member of Puerto Rico’s national team, played water polo at UC Berkeley, where he was teammates with Steffens’ uncles on her mom’s side.
“It’s definitely in our family’s blood,” says Steffens on her family’s legacy in the sport.
It wasn’t long before Steffens was in the pool too, getting her first taste of the Olympic dream when she was invited into a USA water polo camp as a tween.
“I was 11 and got to go to the pool and I got a USA water polo suit. I just remember being at that training camp and it meant the world to me,” says Steffens, adding, “I was so proud and honored to get a USA suit.”
Then, in 2008, Steffens got to experience the real thing when she traveled to Beijing to cheer on her older sister, Jessica Steffens, as she suited up for the United States national water polo team.
“It was so inspiring to watch her play and watch Team USA,” says Steffens. Unfortunately, the team lost out on gold and had to settle for silver, but the defeat proved formative for Steffens.
After the tournament, Steffens’ father Carlos had some critical words for her.
“He looked at me after they had lost, and we kind of had this moment where we stared at each other… and he goes ‘now it’s your turn.'”
Soon enough, it was Steffens’ turn, as she was called up to the team at just 15 years old. Steffens would go on to play in her first Olympics before ever stepping foot on Stanford’s campus as a freshman.
In 2012, Steffens, alongside her older sister, helped secure the U.S national team gold for the first time in the program’s history. The momentous occasion didn’t hit Steffens until the gold medal was placed around her neck.
“Up until that moment, you’re holding that breath because you need to give everything you have,” Steffens says.
The London Olympics provided Steffens her first gold medal, but she won gold again in the 2016 Games. In both of those tournaments, Steffens led her team in scoring and won Olympics’ MVP. Steffens also has three national championships to her name from her time at Stanford.
Now, Steffens will look to repeat her success in the Tokyo games this summer.
“I want to perform at my best for our team so that our team can get to live out their dream,” says Steffens.
You can listen to her full conversation with Kelley O’Hara here.