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Brenda Villa is a water polo player competing at the 2012 London Summer Olympics for the USA.

Like all of her U.S. water polo teammates, Brenda Villa was heartbroken when the team lost to the Netherlands in the gold-medal match at the Beijing Olympics. The squad was favored to win and had even beaten the Dutch a few weeks earlier in a pre-Olympics scrimmage. But as she looks back on it, Villa regrets not appreciating the fact she had won a third medal in three trips to the Olympics. "I think if I do get another opportunity to play in a final and if it doesn't turn out the way I want, I need to be a better Olympian and appreciate the moment," she said.

At 5-foot-4, Villa is not your typical water polo player. She plays the attacker position and brings to the pool a solid outside shot and crisp passing skills. Villa, whose parents came to the U.S. from Mexico, used to view her lack of height as normal for water polo players, as all the girls on her local club team were all similar in stature. "We're all the same height," she said. "We're all predominately Hispanic. It was normal." However, once she started traveling to play other teams she quickly learned her size was atypical in the sport — something that never bothered her. "It wasn't ever an uphill battle," she said. Villa said short arms are an advantage because "sometimes the ball comes off my hand quicker."

Regardless of her Mexican heritage, Villa said she's proud to represent the United States in the pool. Her parents emigrated to the U.S. from western Mexico and settled in Commerce, Calif., a Los Angeles suburb. "I look up in the stands at every Olympics that I go to, and I see my parents holding the American flag up," Villa said. "They're the No. 1 fans." Villa is fluent in three languages — English, Spanish and Italian, the latter coming from stints playing professionally in Italy since 2004.

Villa followed her older brother, Edgar, into water polo at the age of eight. Ten years later, she was one of the best water polo players in the country. Blessed with excellent swimming, tip-top endurance and a world-class shot, she was heavily recruited by several programs before choosing Stanford in 1998.

Two of Villa's greatest sports idols are swimmers. Her first vivid Olympic memory was watching Janet Evans capture gold medals in the 800-meter and 1500-meter freestyle at the Seoul Games in 1988. Her idol growing up was Summer Sanders, a three-time Olympic medalist at the 1992 Barcelona Games. But she considers her parents her greatest influences in life. They gave the following advice: "Do what makes you happy, you have the rest of your life." Villa has taken the advice to great heights.

Villa redshirted at Stanford in 1999 and 2000 to train for the inaugural women's Olympic water polo tournament at the Sydney Games. She led the team with nine goals, as the team fell to Australia, 4-3, in the gold-medal match. Two prized possessions came about from her trip to Sydney: a tattoo of the Olympic rings on top of her right foot, and a silver box engraved specially for her medal.

Villa returned to Stanford after the 2000 Olympics and scored 172 goals over three seasons. She led her team to the NCAA championship in 2002, was a three-time All-American and earned the NCAA Women's Water Polo Player of the Year twice (2001, 2002). Villa graduated in 2003 with a degree in Political Science.

Villa was the U.S. team's top scorer with seven goals in 5 games at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Despite a disappointing semifinal loss to eventual champions Italy, the team was able to avenge its 2000 Games loss to Australia in the bronze-medal match.

Following the Athens Games, Villa played professionally for Italian league power Geymonat Orizzonte in Catania, Sicily, for three years. She quickly adapted to the Sicilian climate (which reminded her of her home state), the food, the slower pace, and even the nearby presence of the legendary volcano Mount Etna. She became quite fluent in the lingua franca: "I spent three years in Catania. The first year, I could understand most of what was being said but it was hard to verbalize my thoughts and feelings. The second year, I roomed with two Italian teammates, and I was forced to become almost fluent. By the third year, I spoke Italian everyday, in and out of the water."


How tall is Brenda Villa? How old is Brenda Villa? Where does Brenda Villa live? Find out here.

Age: 36 years old
Birthday: April 18, 1980
Height: 5' 4"
Weight: 174 lbs.
Birthplace: Los Angeles, CA
Hometown: Commerce, CA
Current Residence: Long Beach, CA

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