U.S. Women's Water Polo Team Returns Home With Olympic Gold

Southern Californians on the team are the toast of their hometowns

Several members of the U.S. women's water polo team that won Olympic gold in London are now back home in Southern California.

"Winning a gold medal is pretty surreal, even though that was the goal from day one," said team member Kami Craig.

Craig and teammates Courtney Mathewson and Brenda Villa are still replaying their memories of the Olympics, including the opening ceremony.

"To walk in with all the other American athletes was really special," Mathewson said.

So was winning the gold after taking silver four years ago.

"To finally see the American flag on the top being raised, and being on the top of the podium, and hearing our anthem ..." Villa said.

The members of the team are celebrating their win with their coach, Adam Krikorian, who didn't receive a medal.

"We put all of our medals around his neck and took a picture with him," Craig said.

"In a lot of ways, the (team) medal is going to be in my heart and in my mind for the rest of my life and that's more important than any gold shiny thing can do for me, "Krikorian said.

Women's water polo only became an Olympic event at the 2000 Sydney Games and this was the USA's first gold medal.

"To be so close in 2008 and come up with a silver, which is awesome, " Craig said, "but I definitely knew I wanted to come back. I knew I wanted gold. I knew we could get gold."

Now that they have gold, the women hope they will inspire more girls to take up the sport.

"My dream all along is to get water polo on the same level as USA Soccer, USA Basketball," Villa said.

Now back home in Southern California, the women are the toast of their hometowns.

Mathewson is from Anaheim Hills, Villa hails from Commerce and Craig grew up in Santa Barbara. They're already missing their teammates.

"It's nice to be home with friends and family, but at the same time you want to celebrate the gold medal with your teammates and the people you've worked so hard with," said Mathewson.

As for the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Villa is sure she's retiring. Mathewson and Craig are non-committal. They sayd just want to enjoy their golden moment in 2012.

Follow NBCLA for the latest LA news, events and entertainment: iPhone/iPad App | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Instagram | RSS | Text Alerts | Email Alerts

Contact Us