Maggie Steffens is a two-time Olympic champion and two-time Olympic MVP. Representing Team USA for the past decade, Steffens’ legendary water polo career also includes three world championships titles, three World Cup trophies, nine World League Super Final victories, two Intercontinental Tournament wins and two Pan American Games gold medals. Competing at her third Pan Am Games, Steffens is chronicling the journey for TeamUSA.org and @TeamUSA social channels.
Hello! Hola! Oi! Bonjour!
Thousands of people come from over 20 countries in one village to represent their country, their sport and their name? What an incredible opportunity! The Pan American Games are not just about competing, but also the cultural experience and perspective you gain while wearing your country’s name among others doing the same. It is a gift we have each earned and one that we all do our best to be grateful for and enjoy. I have four overarching goals for this trip that I believe will help me stay accountable, and also allow our team take full advantage of this opportunity.
1) Inspire One Another & Inspire Our Sport
Something we focus on as a team is being the best we can be in and out of the water. We feel a responsibility to our sport to try play it in the best way that it can be played. We each have a responsibility to one another and ourselves to bring our very best in all that we do – in the pool, as a teammate, as a friend, as a representative of Team USA, and as a representative of our last names. We have a responsibility to the Pan American Games to bring our best effort and compete at our highest level. Keeping this in mind keeps us driven and keeps us yearning to improve each day. It reminds us that this is bigger than ourselves. By trying to inspire one another with the way we act and the way we play, we will only raise up our team as well as the Games.
2) Hear Our Anthem On Top Of The Podium
As I talked about above, we are always striving to be our best and striving to be the best. At the end of the day, we are here to bring home the gold for Team USA and we will do everything in our power to make it happen. Let the gold standard fuel us!
3) Become A Greater Part Of the Team USA Family
It is rare that so many different Team USA athletes are together in one place. We usually train all over the states and only cross paths at events like this one, so we want to take full advantage! We are lucky enough to play water polo, so we know that there is a magical power behind being part of a team and that teamwork that can push you through anything. At the Games, this magical power is everywhere! You feel truly united with athletes you have never even met as you are all striving to be the best you can be for Team USA. No matter if it’s giving someone in a USA jacket in the dining hall a good-luck high five, making a new friend in the athlete lounge while you both snack on some PB&J’s, or even yelling super loud in the bleachers cheering on Team USA. We all feel a part of something much bigger and feel a great pride being in this environment. We are becoming a part of the Team USA family.
4) Immerse Ourselves In Other Cultures
It’s important to immerse ourselves in the Peruvian culture as well as that of the 20-plus countries from around the Americas. We are INCREDIBLY lucky to be here and be sharing this experience with such a variety of inspiring athletes. Why not soak it all in? When else will you get the opportunity to learn about over 20-plus cultures while in a foreign country? I speak a bit of Spanish, so I try to only speak Spanish to all the helpers and drivers here as well as when we interact with the Spanish-speaking countries. We love asking our bus drivers questions about the lifestyle here in Peru and what foods we should try. You will even find us after games chatting with the women we just played against asking about Puerto Rico, Venezuela or Cuba, trying to learn a little about where they come from. One of our favorite pastimes is simply going to the International Zone and allowing ourselves to experience the variety of languages, athletes, countries – quite a humbling experience! Not to mention, the Boricua in me always wants to go listen and dance to the live Salsa music they have almost every night! Overall, it is a beautiful experience we have been given, and it is important we soak up as much as possible to gain a better perspective on our world.