By Allen Payton
There are 87 Bay Area athletes competing in the Tokyo Olympics and two are from Contra Costa County. They are rowing team member Kara Kohler of Clayton and water polo team member Maggie Steffens of Danville.
2012 Bronze medal winner in quadruple sculls, Kara Kohler, whose hometown is Clayton where she was also born, is competing in Women’s Rowing in the Single Sculls event this year. She placed first in her heat on Friday and second in her semifinal race Sunday morning. Her next race is scheduled for Thursday morning, July 29.
According to Team USA, the 6’2” 30-year-old Kohler was a competitive swimmer throughout high school, at Clayton Valley in Concord, including at the 2008 Janet Evans Grand Prix Swim Meet at USC and the 2008 Pacific Swimming North America Cup Challenge. But during her senior year of high school, she was encouraged by a family friend to look into rowing collegiately, which led her down the path to becoming a recruited walk-on at UC Berkeley.
Kohler was named the Pac-10 Conference Newcomer of the Year in 2010 and won Cal’s Most Promising Freshman Award. She was also a four-time All-American.
After switching to the single sculls in 2018, Kohler won the bronze medal at the 2019 World Championships. That year, she was also named USRowing’s Female Athlete of the Year. Her hobbies include adventures with her dog Luna, camping, swimming, road biking and cooking.
According to her profile page on Tokyo 2020 Olympics website, Kohler’s parents are her greatest influence, her hero is U.S. rower Jill Costello and her philosophy is, “Enjoy the process a little more because no one’s perfect from the start.”
Steffens, who was born in San Ramon, is a two-time Gold medal winner at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. At the 2016 games in Rio, she was named MVP, and tied the Olympic record for most goals scored at 21. The 5’8” 28-year-old athlete is the USA Women’s Water Polo Team Captain for the second time.
According to Team USA, she is a 2012 graduate of Monte Vista High School. Her sister Jessica is also a two-time Olympic medalist in water polo, first in 2008 and then on the same 2012 team Maggie played on. Steffens is the daughter of Carlos and Peggy Steffens, has one brother, Charlie, and another sister, Teresa.
She aided Stanford University to three NCAA titles (2014, 2015 and 2017) and was named FINA World Player of the Year in 2012 and 2014.
Growing up, Steffens competed in soccer, swimming, basketball and gymnastics.
She is the co-founder of 6-8 Sports, Inc., a platform connecting data and technology for youth athlete development currently focused on the sport of water polo.
Her hobbies include hiking, kayaking and canoeing, writing, singing, dancing and reading. Steffens is also fluent in Spanish.
According to her website, “Maggie was named to the Women’s National Team in 2009 and has represented the United States at every major international championship competition held annually since.”
She’s also scholar athlete, having earned “an undergraduate degree in Science, Technology & Society in 2017 and a Masters of Science in Management, Science and Engineering in 2018.”
Photo: Team USA.