NEW YORK, Oct 12 (Reuters) – After three successive Olympic titles and a fourth back-to-back world championship this year, American water polo heroine Maggie Steffens has her sights on a new goal: getting her team and sport the recognition she believes they deserve.
With their unprecedented successive runs to the podium, the American women’s team has an impressive pedigree but has failed to garner much attention, something she hopes to change.
“We put so much effort into finally being the team that changes the narrative, finally being the team that says, ‘This is our ’99 World Cup women’s soccer moment’,” Steffens told Reuters, a reference to the U.S. national team’s blockbuster World Cup on home turf.
“Physically we’re doing everything we can do. We’re winning gold medals. We’re breaking records.”
Among the best players ever to enter the pool, Steffens earned the Women’s Sports Foundation’s (WSF) sportswoman of the year honour in the team category on Wednesday, a recognition that often goes to competitors in more mainstream American sports such as soccer and basketball.
“As you develop in the sport, and I’ve been around it for so long, being a leader, being a veteran, my goals are so much more big-picture,” said Steffens, who hit the headlines in Tokyo when she surpassed the all-time Olympic scoring record days after breaking her nose during a match.
“How do these women get more opportunities than I had?”
The 29-year-old launched data analytics company 6-8 Sports with fellow Olympian Tony Azevedo with the aim of bringing attention to so-called “developing sports” and earlier this year USA Water Polo named the company its official statistics provider.
“Water polo is a very, you know, ‘put your head down and work’ type of sport,” she said. “A lot of it is unseen, a lot of it is unnoticed.”
Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; editing by Clare Fallon
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