When Brenda Villa emigrated from Mexico to the U.S., she didn't know how to swim. Now captain of the U.S. Women's Olympic Water Polo Team, Villa returned to the City of Commerce to inspire future Olympians. "She showed us all size doesn t matter; that anything is possible," says Laura Jiminez, a Commerce water polo athlete. Vikki Vargas reports from Commerce for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on July 24, 2012.
Captain of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Water Polo Team, Brenda Villa is a local hero in the City of Commerce.
The 32-year-old who credits her parents, Rosario and Ines, with pushing her into the pool then getting out of the way is back connecting with the community where it all began.
When she jumps in the pool at the Commerce Aquatorium, Villa makes more than a splash – she inspires.
“We’re all family oriented here brothers, cousins, neighbors when she comes back Brenda is a hero,” said Gabriel Martinez, Commerce girls water polo coach.
Villa emigrated from Mexico to the U.S. not knowing how to swim.
“I was a little girl playing water polo and every girl on my team looked like me, and I didn’t think that we were an anomaly or not normal,” she said.
The 5-foot-4-inch athlete says she knows the challenges her statute poses, but adds that the pool is a great equalizer.
Laura Jiminez, a water polo athlete in Commerce, says she looks up to Villa’s example.
“She showed us all size doesn’t matter; that anything is possible,” Jiminez said.
Nearly all water polo players from the Commerce Aquatorium have going to college, many on academic scholarships, which is how Villa attended Stanford.
“The passion is awesome. I mean we always try so hard because so many of us love the sport,” said Carissa Perez, Commerce water polo player.
Villa says she plans to connect with more young players after the 2012 Olympics in London.
Villa is starting Project 2020, a foundation that aims to influence kids to become Olympians eight years from now. She’ll start her endeavor near San Francisco.
“I look at my city and see how they’ve sent so many girls to college. If it can work there it can work anywhere,” she said.
Commerce’s 14,000 residents include many parents who look to Villa and then their own daughters and wonder if their connection to this city might mean there are more Olympians in their future.