The US’ Maggie Steffens made the most of her Olympic debut on Monday as the 19-year-old Californian scored seven goals in a 14-13 win over Hungary on the opening day of the women’s water polo tournament.
Steffens’ talent and poise in front of goal stood out on a day that otherwise contained few surprises, with the favored US and Australian squads, the 2008 Beijing Games silver and bronze medalists respectively, securing wins.
Steffens, who watched from the stands when her sister and teammate Jessica competed in Beijing four years ago, said she felt “awesome” after recording the biggest Olympic debut goal tally in the history of women’s water polo at the Games.
“Was I surprised? No. She has so much potential in her and I think she’s been waiting to bust out of her skin,” Jessica, 25, said of her sister’s performance.
The US team has the Olympic gold medal firmly in their sights, according to Maggie, who deferred her place at Stanford University in California to concentrate on water polo.
“This is more important. Stanford can wait for the possibility of a medal,” Maggie, sporting red scratches on her chest after scrapping against the Hungarians in this most demanding and aggressive of sports, told reporters.
In the earlier games, Spain, playing in their women’s Olympic water polo debut, used a series of outside shots to pound China 11-6.
Britain’s women’s water polo team almost rustled some feathers in what was their first ever Olympic appearance, going down 7-6 to Russia, a country with a strong water polo tradition and the only European nation to contest each women’s water polo Olympic tournament since the sport was introduced in 2000.