By Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor
It’s been a busy week for Maggie Steffens, arguably the worldâ€™s best female water polo player.
On Wednesday it was announced that the 24 year-old Californian was named a finalist for the Womenâ€™s Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year, given annually to a team sport athleteÂ whose performance over a 12-month span has been exceptional.
If selected, Steffens would join Olympic teammate Ashleigh Johnson, winner of the 2016 WSF Sportswoman of the Year in a Team Sport award. Previous honorees include Sue Bird, Mia Hamm, Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoops, Abby Wambach, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh.
Earlier this week Daily News Hungary reported that starting next season Steffensâ€”who captained the U.S. Womenâ€™s Senior National Team to Olympic Gold in 2016 and the Stanford womenâ€™s water polo squad to an NCAA championship in 2017â€”signed a contract to play for UVSE, the top womenâ€™s team in the Hungarian professional league.
A two-time Olympic MVP (2012, 2016) on gold-winning U.S. teams and three-time NCAA champion at Stanford (2014, 2015, 2017) Steffens led the American squad that last month captured gold at the FINA World Championships.
Following Team USAâ€™s 13-6 win over Spain in the FINA title match at Budapestâ€™s Alfred HajĂłs Swimming Complex, Steffens had noteworthy comments, including musings about her future in the sport.
All this time and nobodyâ€™s ever won a FINA Championship right after winning Olympic gold.
Well, itâ€™s definitely a very hard thing to do. Youâ€™re coming from a high of 2016 and then to come back the next summer with new women, trying to create that same, incredible team that can get it done.
Iâ€™m very proud of this team and what weâ€™ve accomplished this summer, and when we were in that huddle at the end I said: â€śSoak it in, ladies! One, weâ€™re in an amazing arena. And two, weâ€™re a team of firsts. And weâ€™re not afraid to keep trying to be a team of firsts. First to two goal medals, [first] to gold medal, world championship.â€ť
We have that drive to face more firsts.
What happen next for Maggie Steffens?
I enjoy this moment with these incredible women. Thatâ€™s the best thing about water polo; you get to share it with your teammates.
Any success or gold medal is all encompassing of the hard work and the dedication that you put towards your team.
I just look forward to playing with these girls again and creating a team because thatâ€™s what makes a gold medal so specialâ€”thereâ€™s people you get to share it with.
I look forward to creating even better bonds, better relationships and making history as we move forward.
Three golds in a rowâ€”is that what youâ€™re looking for?
I would love to keep playing the sport as long as Iâ€™m ableâ€¦. Right now, itâ€™s clear Iâ€™m very passionate about this sport, this team and representing USA. Iâ€™m taking it a day at a time, though; Tokyoâ€™s a long way away.
Winning a world championship is incredible; itâ€™s insane!
What is it about the spirit of your team?
In the back of our heads thereâ€™s this American pride of always striving to be your best as individuals and as a team. And to bring the best out of one another. Itâ€™s like when you get a feeling that youâ€™re just flowing with your teammates. Youâ€™re able to make the people around you better as you yourself are improving.
For us, the spirit is trying to be the best team we can be because thatâ€™s what makes it fun. And the more fun we have the more heart you can see in the way we play, the will, the fight.
We love making history, we love being firstâ€”and the most important part of that is the culture and our teamwork.