Preparation and focus key for women's water polo “We’re a national team right now, we’re not an Olympic team,” said Brenda Villa, one of the United States most successful female water polo players as she ate dinner.
Photo Courtesy: www.kttape.com - 3-time Olympic Medalist Brenda Villa Joins The Counter Attack.
“We’re a national team right now, we’re not an Olympic team,” said Brenda Villa, one of the United States most successful female water polo players as she ate dinner at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center. Across from her sat Heather Petri, the only other female U.S. water polo player to have competed in three Olympic Games. Between them they have 6 Olympic medals and 5 world championship gold medals, but no Olympic gold medal.
Despite having one of the world’s most successful women’s water polo programs the United States has yet to stand on the top step of the podium at an Olympic Games. Their next chance to do so will come at the London 2012 Olympic Games. The first steps towards achieving that goal start this week at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Before heading to Guadalajara, the squad spent a week at the Colorado Springs Olympic training center to fine tune their game with exhibition games against the Netherlands and mentally gather themselves before diving headfirst into the international tournament.
“When you go to games like Pan Ams it can be crazy,” said Petri. “You get there and have one hour of pool time, it takes two hours to get to the pool, you don’t really know what you’re getting. At the OTC, we can do exactly what we need to do, so we’re getting ready with control on our side.”
If the women don’t win gold in Guadalajara, they’ll have to enter a qualification tournament in Italy next year, a much tougher route, made even harder by the fact that Olympic hosts England have already locked up a spot, making the qualification competition even fiercer in Europe.
For seasoned veteran Petri, winning Pan Ams represents a much easier path.
“I started playing when we hadn’t qualified, so I’ve done it both ways. You just realize how awesome if could be to do it first, to just get it done and be like, ‘Ok, now we’re going to be an Olympic team,’ instead of having that extra stress. I want to make sure we do it first and we do it right.”
The team’s focus could have been de-railed in July after losing to 9-7 to Russia in the quarterfinals of the World Championships in Shanghai, a stunning loss for a team that had just won the FINA World League Super Final crown in June. Leading 6-2 against Russia going into the third quarter, the U.S. conceded five straight goals to lose a lead which they would never regain. The Pan American Games is the squad’s first major competition since the loss.
“You never need to lose to learn new things about yourself, but it caused our team to re-evaluate things outside of the water,” said center, Melissa Siedemann. “We were prepared; we were in good shape, so it made us re-evaluate everything we’re doing in the water, out of the water,