Heather Petri didn't come to Cal as an accomplished youth water polo player. She didn't take up the sport until she was a junior at Miramonte High School in Orinda, Calif. Petri walked on to the Bears program and was never on scholarship during what turned out to be an All-American collegiate career.
Perhaps that's what makes Saturday's special ceremony at Spieker Aquatics Complex even more remarkable. Petri, who after starring at Cal went on to play in four Olympics for the United States, will have her No. 13 cap retired before Saturday's Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opener against USC.
The presentation will take place at 12:45 p.m., with the match beginning at 1 p.m.
"I've never heard of something like this. It is such an honor," Petri said. "I've never looked at my career as something out of the ordinary. I'm very surprised and overwhelmed. I really love Cal or what it gave to me as an athlete. It's a big honor."
Petri played at Cal from 1997-99 and 2001, missing the 2000 season to play in her first Olympic Games. She was an All-American in 1999.
Petri and the U.S. won medals at all four Olympics during which she competed - two Silvers, one Bronze and a Gold Medal last summer in London. She is the only Cal athlete ever to medal in four different Olympics.
"She's an Olympic champion. There's not many of them in the sport of water polo," Cal coach Richard Corso said. "Not only is she a champion, but every time she has gone to the Olympic Games for the United States, she's come home with a medal. She's a great role model for our program. She was a great student-athlete when she was here. I can't think of any other way to honor somebody like that."
After spending all of her adult life committed fully to water polo, Petri says she is retired now. Just this week, she did a water polo practice for the first time since returning from London six months ago. In the time since, she has been able to use her Olympic status to make a goodwill trip to Africa, and in January was joined by three other 2012 Olympians - including former Cal rower Erin Cafaro - on a visit to Afghanistan to visit American troops.
"To watch how they are helping the Afghans take over is really cool," Petri said. "The people in our Armed Forces are great people. It was cool to be able to say thank you to them in person."
Without water polo, Petri now has more time for other things - simple pleasures that she never had time for in the past. She said she's taken up cooking and now has more time to foster relationships with friends and family.
"I love cooking, but I was always so tired I would just make a smoothie and go to bed," Petri said. "I'm re-connecting with my community, talking to kids. And I someone asks if I'd like to have dinner, I can actually say, 'Yes, I would.'"