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U.S. Women’s Olympics Water Polo gets a boost through Maureen O’Toole and Juice Plus+

Very seldom does one person define the sport in which he or she participates. Is Michael Jordan the greatest basketball player of all time – or Albert Pujols the greatest baseball player? Is Martina Navratilova the greatest women’s tennis player ever? It’s usually impossible to find agreement as to who is the #1 player in any sport – but not in the case of women’s water polo, where Maureen O’Toole of Danville, California is universally regarded as the greatest female water polo player to ever play the game.

Maureen’s legacy of greatness speaks for itself. She was named Most Valuable Player of the US Women’s National Team 15 times, World Water Polo Female Athlete of the Year seven times, and U.S. Water Polo Female Athlete of the Year five times – almost single-handedly carrying the sport of women’s water polo in the United States from its infancy to its arrival as an Olympic Medal sport. She is the only athlete in her sport to have participated in the first FINA Women’s World Cup, the first FINA Women’s World Championship, and the first Women’s Olympic Water Polo tournament. She was been named to the All American team for US Water Polo a record 28 times.

In 2001, Sports Illustrated picked Maureen as the most underrated female athlete in any sport. She has been inducted into the Olympic Club Hall of Fame.

Unlike most of her potential male counterparts in other sports, Maureen had to go to unusual lengths to achieve greatness. At Wilson High School in Long Beach, California she had to play on the boys’ water polo team because there was no girls’ team to play on. By the age of 17, she had progressed to the U.S. Women’s National Team, where she became a fixture for the next 16 years before retiring in 1994. Amazingly, she returned to competitive water polo after giving birth to her daughter Kelly, in 1991. (Let Michael Jordan or Albert Pujols beat that one!)

Maureen’s story doesn’t end there, however. When women’s water polo was added as an Olympic sport for the 2000 summer games in Sydney, Australia, her old teammates needed her. So in 1997 Maureen came out of retirement to re-join the U.S. Women’s National Team and help them become one of only six teams in the world to qualify for the Olympics. Then, at the age of 39 – almost ten years older than her next oldest teammate – she proceeded to lead the U.S. in game-winning goals in the 2000 Olympic games, propelling the underdog Americans into the Gold Medal game against host Australia before 18,000 fans, the largest crowd ever to witness a women’s water polo game. 

She credits Juice Plus+ with giving her the strength and stamina to not just attempt such an incredible comeback but to excel at it – despite her age.

"My philosophy as an athlete was to always work as hard as I could and give a hundred and ten percent," O’Toole explains. "But coming back to competitive water polo at that age was incredibly demanding physically, unlike any other challenge I had ever faced. There is no question that Juice Plus+® was crucial in allowing me to extend my career the way I did – against all odds." 

Now firmly retired from competitive water polo, Maureen continues to "Live Life to the Plus+" founder of The Pursuit of Excellence Sports Academy, a non-profit foundation that teaches self-esteem and leadership skills to girls 8-18. She is the author of the book Becoming a Better You. And she speaks to students and such corporations as Nestle and McDonalds about the importance of teamwork in achieving success. 

Maureen is also helping train the next generation of U.S. women’s water polo players at

Diablo Water Polo, where she is Head Coach for the girls. “Two Olympic gold medalists—Jessica and Maggie Steffens—played for me at Diablo and went on to play on the 2012 London Olympics gold medal team. Maggie was also named the ‘Most Valuable Player’ at the Games.”

Of course, Maureen’s “most valuable player” will always be daughter Kelly Mendoza, who has been named a USA Water Polo All-American and was a member of the USA Junior National Team from 2008 -2012.  Kelly helped lead Team USA to a gold medal at the 2008 Global Championships in Brisbane, Australia; and was the Most Valuable Player of both the 2007 and 2008 Junior Olympics. 

While Kelly was at the University of California-Berkeley, she led her team to victory in the 2013 National Championship, where Maureen says “they beat Stanford in the longest NCAA game ever, in five overtimes.”  Kelly is now a member of the USA Senior National Team, competing in the World Championships in Barcelona, Spain this summer, before starting her senior year at the University of Southern California.

Like mother, like daughter – even when it comes to taking Juice Plus+. "Even though you’re more resilient when you’re younger, you still pay the price when you’re hard on your body. I’m so glad that I’ve had my daughter on Juice Plus+ since she was seven. I can’t help but think about what that’s going to mean for her when she’s 30 and 40 years old – whether she’s competing or not." 

When she’s not busy coaching the champions of tomorrow, Maureen shares Juice Plus+ with others as a Juice Plus+ representative. 

Read here for news about Kelly and the Barcelona championships, July 21-August 2.

This is a “must see” three-minute video.  Maureen O’Toole: Honor Water Polo Player

Diablo Water Polo:

Maggie Steffens, Olympic gold medalist and Most Valuable Player:

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