Over 100 people gathered at Oak Hill Park on Saturday afternoon to welcome home two "hometown heroes" -- Olympians Jessica and Maggie Steffens. The USA Women's Water Polo defenders won gold at the London games this summer and displayed their medals for a very supportive crowd.
"It's been really amazing how many people have been supporting us and watched us when we were gone and how many messages and emails we've gotten. So to be able to come back and give back and share the gold medal with everybody is pretty awesome," said Maggie, 19. "I'm glad to have a gold medal and share it with my sister, but it's also Danville's and it's also America's and to be able to come home and share the medal with all of you and know it's a part of you too is really special."
The youngest member of the water polo team and member of the Olympic All-Star Team, Maggie scored five goals in Team USA's final game against Spain bringing the team to a 8-5 win for its first ever gold medal. Although the team brought home two silver medals in 2000 and 2008, the Steffens said USA Women would not stop until they won gold.
"I am extremely proud of that silver medal in Beijing, my first Olympics," said Jessica, 27. "I didn't know if I was going to come to another one, even just to compete at the Olympics was my dream, even if I didn't tell anyone it was my dream. To finally realize that is incredible."
Jessica and Maggie were presented with keys to the town (the fourth and fifth keys ever given out) as well as with proclamations from Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-11) and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo). The two were also honored at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting.
"These two girls absolutely represent the best of the best and they went through an extraordinary process to get here," said Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich, who emceed the event. "You can see their drive and passion."
Although Maggie had played water polo from a young age, Jessica began at 16 and quickly climbed up the ladder through college and to the national team. After shoulder surgery just 18 months before the London games, Arnerich said she couldn't deny her team spirit.
But before discussing their journeys to the 2012 Olympics, both women thanked the town and contributors to youth sports in the area for having an indelible impact on their athletic careers. In addition to various youth teams, the Steffens sisters played water polo for Monte Vista High School.
"Youth sports in the area are just so important and obviously did wonders for Maggie and I and our whole family and I feel like the community in the youth sports is just fantastic here," Jessica said, thanking coaches and parents for their efforts. "It is so important for the development of kids and I would be nowhere without sport. From swimming to soccer it all helped guide me to water polo."
But Team USA's dynamic was also essential to the gold medal win; the Steffens sisters repeatedly referenced the team's closeness and experience as driving forces in tournaments and the final game against Spain. About half the team had completed in previous Olympics and all of them bonded "like sisters."
Not only did that bond stretch across thousands of miles to fans watching at home, but emotions ran high outside the pool during the games. The Steffens' parents attended the games and, filled with emotion, consider the gold medal win one for the whole family.
"I'm still flying with two very strong wings," said Carlos Steffens, who played water polo at UC Berkeley. "It was a lot of adrenaline, a lot of pride and a lot of emotion."
The family bond continued in the pool, Maggie said, as the sisters competed against each other and pushed each other to succeed. Jessica said the two are better competitors against others when they play together.
After a question and answer session that included information about training (six hours a day, six days a week), favorite Olympic moments (opening ceremonies and a kiss on Maggie's cheek from LeBron James) and training diet (healthy, with the occasional Cold Stone trip), the Steffens discussed their future.
"I think I'm done playing at this level. It's done so much for me and sport in general has done so much for me, but I'm excited to cheer for my sister and give back to the sport in other ways," Jessica said.
Maggie will attend Stanford as a freshman and is excited to "be a teenager" for a bit. She said she hopes to add an NCAA title to her gold medal and help spread her love water polo around the world.
For more information on Team USA and Jessica and Maggie Steffens, visit the Team USA website.