After four trips to the Olympics, Team USA women’s water polo player Brenda Villa, 32, left London with her elusive first gold medal. Villa had been a member of three previous medal-winning squads (two silvers and a bronze), but now she has the full spectrum of colors on display, and no doubt the gold shines brightest.

Born in Los Angeles, Calif., and raised in nearby Commerce, Villa took after her older brother Edgar and picked up water polo at age 8. Over the next ten years she developed into a top national water polo prospect and attended Stanford University. She red-shirted her first two years at Stanford in order to prepare for the 2000 Sydney Games, the first to feature women’s water polo, but she wasted no time making her mark when she finally competed for the Cardinal. In her first season, she was named NCAA Women’s Water Polo Player of the Year, an honor she would earn the following season en route to leading Stanford to a national championship. She graduated from Stanford in 2003 with a degree in political science.

Villa is currently fluent in English, Spanish (her parents emigrated from Mexico) and Italian (she played professionally in Italy). Standing only 5’4,” Villa is short for a water polo player, but she utilizes her accurate shot and quick release to compete with bigger, taller opponents. And before a competition, Villa does not focus on any perceived personal disadvantages, but solely on what she needs to do to be successful. “Before a match I like to listen to music, I’ll make a playlist and it helps me get into my zone,” Villa told Uinterview exclusively. “I go over our game plan when I have my headphones on, just visualizing the game. I think it’s really important to visualize what you’re going to do before you do it so that when you’re in the water you just rely on your instincts.”

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Q: How did you first become interested in Water Polo? - Uinterview User

I started playing water polo at the age of eight, after my older brother began to play. I was a little tomboy growing up, wanted to be where he was all the time. So I went from swimming to water polo and have not looked back.

Q: What’s your workout regimen in preparation for the Olympics? - Uinterview User

In this last year doing the quadrangle, our training has increased a lot. We go to ten practices a week, where three of those practices will be in the weight room going an hour-and-a-half of strength training, squats, lunges, dead lifts, pull ups. We’ve been doing a lot of running this year. And for people who are meant to be in the water, it adds a lot of stress to us, but it’s good for us. We do a lot of scrimmaging, a lot of swimming, a lot of conditioning. So, ten workouts a week.

Q: How much does endurance factor into your sport? - Uinterview User

For water polo, endurance is a huge part of our sport. Yes, we need to sprint up and down, but you’re also having somebody tug on you and having to shoot the ball. So, we do a lot of conditioning for endurance. We need to be able to go top speed for the whole game.

Q: How do you prepare yourself mentally for competition? - Uinterview User

I personally, before a match, like to just listen to music. I’ll make a playlist and it just kind of helps me get into my zone. I go over our game plan, I have my headphones on, just visualizing the game. I think it’s really important to visualize something before you do it, so that when you’re in the water you just rely on your instincts.

Q: What’s your diet regimen in preparation for the games? - Uinterview User

Since we’re in the water so much and burning so many calories, our nutritionists are always like, “Make sure you get enough snacks in, but make them productive snacks.” So we do a lot of veggies, a lot of fruits. Just minimizing our carbs, but we don’t have a stop light, like don’t do this, don’t do that. It’s more like, make sure you get enough of the veggies and the fruit.