Oct. 4, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. - This is the first column entry by Mark Soltau, a longtime Bay Area journalist and lifelong Stanford follower. Each week he will portray the present of past of the Stanford athletics from his unique perspective.
Roy Perkins isn’t the biggest name in the history of Stanford Athletics, but he might be the most determined. A six-time Paralympic medalist who captured four swimming medals at the Summer Paralympic Games in London, Perkins was born without hands or feet.
The 22-year-old senior from San Diego claimed silver medals in the 100-meter freestyle and 50 butterfly, and bronze in the 50 free and 200 free. He also competed in the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, winning gold in the 50 fly and bronze in the 100 free.
Before you start feeling sympathetic, don’t. Perkins accepts his fate in life and has no complaints.
“I’ve really never known any other way,” Perkins said this week, during a media gathering for Stanford Olympians.
Perkins got involved with sports at age 5 and started swimming at age 13. He trains 5-6 days a week in the pool for at least two hours, and spends three days a week doing dry land workouts and lifting weights.
“At first, I was just good at it, so I kept doing it,” he said. “But I’ve grown to really love it.”
Perkins, who is majoring in environmental science, said his most memorable moments in London were at the medal stand when the national anthem was played.
“It really kind of hit me on the podium when the flag went up,” said Perkins. “It made me proud.”
After returning from London, Perkins and other U.S. Olympians visited the White House.
“It was really great,” he said. “I met the President, the First Lady and the Vice-President. I got a chance to shake their hand.”
Perkins said his strengths are the sprints, but is trying to improve in every event. While he didn’t bring home gold this summer, he lowered his time in the 100-yard free by a second.
“My competition got faster, so I’m happy with it,” said Perkins.
His next big goal: Competing in the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
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Freshman Maggie Steffens from Danville, Calif., is just settling into campus life. She was the star of the U.S. women’s water polo team, helping the Americans earn the gold medal by scoring a tournament-high 21 goals, including an Olympic-record seven in the opening victory against Hungary.
“It was amazing,” said Steffens. “There are no words I can use to describe the experience. I’ve been there as a fan and I’ve been there as an athlete. Truly nothing can compare to it, especially winning.”
What surprised her the most?
“At first, it was very overwhelming,” she said. “It was such a big tournament and such a big stage. But at the same time, we did everything the same. You’ve done this a million times and just have to remember that it’s just a sport and it’s just water polo. We were able to just put the stage to the side and play.”
For those who watched on television, the physical nature of the sport might have been surprising. No more than normal, insisted Steffens.
“It was just because there were underwater cameras and people were able to see what goes on,” she said. “It’s a battle. It was kind of fun to share that with people.” Steffens loved playing with former Stanford standout Brenda Villa.
“Brenda was kind of the person who pulled us all together because she had so much experience, knowledge and wisdom,” said Steffens. “I’ve been able to learn from her so that hopefully in the future, I’m able to reach other people in the pipeline coming up.”
Steffens, who will compete for Stanford’s two-time defending NCAA championship team, was hardly a lock to come to the Farm.
“I hated Stanford when I was little,” she said. “My parents went to Cal, my cousins went to Cal. Everybody was pretty much Cal-Berkeley. I was always a Bear fan. But then once my sister came here and I came on campus and kind of got to experience the whole Stanford family, I said, ‘Wait. This place is awesome.’ I fell in love.”
After taking a year off to train for the Olympics, Steffens said it’s strange and refreshing not to think about water polo every minute of the day.
“There are other things I have to focus on, like school,” said Steffens. “I’ve had lots of fun the last two weeks going to class and finding out homework. Right now, I’m just trying to take it all in and enjoy it as much as I can.”
Steffens won’t say where she stashed her gold medal, but it a hot topic in her dorm. “Everyone is asking me to bring it to school,” she smiled. “I might bring it for a day.”
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Congratulations to sophomore Patrick Rodgers of the Stanford Men’s Golf Team. He won the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational by five strokes, becoming the first Cardinal golfer to successfully defend a collegiate title since Rob Grube won back-to-back U.S. Intercollegiate crowns at Stanford Golf Course in 1995-96.
-- Mark Soltau, Stanford Athletics
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Palo Alto native Mark Soltau, the son of former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Gordy Soltau, has spent his whole life and much of his career around Stanford sports. A sportswriter for 35 years, Soltau spent 16 (1981-97) at the San Francisco Examiner, where he covered not only the Cardinal, but all five 49ers Super Bowl-championship teams. Golf always has been his passion and Soltau served as the sport’s beat writer for the Examiner, national golf writer for CBS Sportsline, contributing editor to Golf Digest, and since 1997 has been the editor of tigerwoods.com. On October 14, Mark will introduce his father into the 49ers Hall of Fame.