Photo cred:The Exercist - Tumblr
Getting to know Brenda Villa
Brenda Villa is the most decorated woman in Water Polo, but to get to the top you have to work hard. Today Brenda lives in northern California with her husband Gino, and daughter Gianna. Brenda continues to share her passion for the game through coaching, and personal appearances. She also works with several non-profit foundations.
Brenda was born on April 18th, when she was five years old her parents, immigrants from northern Mexico, took her to the pool so she wouldn’t be afraid of the water like her mother. After two years on the swim team, they allowed her to follow her older brother Edgar into the sport of water polo. This was before there were girl water polo programs and Brenda practiced with and competed mostly against boys where she quickly learned how much better she was than the boys!
Once more girls started joining the Commerce Water Polo team, they played with and against boys made the Commerce girls teams a powerhouse in Junior Olympic Competition. At the 1994 National Junior Olympics, Brenda played in all three age groups, leading the Commerce girls to the 13 & under title, Bronze in 15 & under division and gold again in 17 & under division.
Playing with and against boys made the Commerce girls teams a powerhouse in Junior Olympic Competition. At the 1994 National Junior Olympics, for example, Brenda played in all three age groups, leading the Commerce girls to the 13 & under title, Bronze in 15 & under division and gold again in 17 & under division.
Brenda was excelling in the classroom her goal from at least the age of 12, was to attended Stanford University on a swimming scholarship, her top goal was to play water polo for Stanford.
The International Olympic Committee announced that Women’s water polo would join the 2000 Olympic program. So she re-set her goal higher – it was not just to play for Stanford, but to also to win an Olympic Gold medal for the USA. She had no idea then that it would take 14 long years to do it.
The Road to Success
In 1998, the USA women’s team was ranked 8th in the world and there would only be six teams in the inaugural Olympic tournament. There were two chances for teams to qualify for the 2000 Olympic Games. When the USA failed to qualify at the FINA World Cup in May of 1999, it came down to a last chance qualification tournament in Palermo, Sicily in April of 2000. In what was a do or die game against Hungary, it was a goal by Brenda that broke a 5 -5 tie late in the fourth quarter to earn the USA a ticket to Sydney.