Los Alamitos, CA—With the cancellation of this month’s scheduled trip to Belgrade, Yugoslavia, due to security concerns by the U.S. State Department, the U.S. National Water Polo team was left without a tournament. And with the start of the 2000 Olympics bearing down on Team USA like a freight train, every minute in the water counts.
Well, when you can’t go get the games, you do the next best thing…you bring the games to you.
Beginning on Thursday (Aug. 24), the Romanian National Water Polo team will train in conjunction with the U.S. team, going head-to-head for three exhibition games on August 27, August 31, and September 2.
Earlier this month, Team USA was forced to withdraw from what was to have been their final pre-Olympic tournament in Belgrade due to concerns by the U.S. State Department over the team's safety and the fact that the countries currently have no relations. That tournament would have pitted the U.S. against teams from Russia, Greece, Croatia, Yugoslavia, Italy, Slovakia, and Romania and was viewed as crucial to the team's Olympic preparation.
"Circumstances forced us to find an alternative to the tournament in Belgrade and we were very fortunate that, with the financial support of the U.S. Olympic Committee, the Romanians have agreed to extend their season and come to the U.S. for common training," said United States Water Polo Executive Director, Bruce Wigo.
"In spite of failing to qualify for the Olympic Games, the Romanians are in top shape, having just completed their final round of Euro-League play last weekend," said Wigo. "They are also looking ahead to the 2001 FINA World Championships, which is less than a year away."
Romania was stunned back in May, only one month before the Olympic Qualification Tournament, with the announcement that their star player, Bogdan Rath, had decided to swap nationalities and play for Italy. The team never recovered from the shock and failed to qualify for Sydney. They have since made some changes in their line-up and seem to be out to prove that they belonged in Sydney, having garnered wins over the-Olympic teams from Spain and Slovakia in recent Euro League play.
The first US vs. Romania game will be played on Sunday, August 27th at Newport Harbor HIgh School at 5:00 p.m. The second US vs. Romania exhibition game will take place on Thursday, August 31st, at El Toro High
School. The match will take place at 7:15 and will follow an inner squad exhibition by the USA Women's Olympic Water Polo Team, which will begin at 6:00 PM. This will be the final stateside public appearance before the Women's Olympic Team departs for Sydney on September 4th.
A third and final US vs. Romania match will take place on Saturday, September 2, at a time and location yet to be determined.
Tickets for all game will be $8 for adults and $6 for students. For more information, contact the USWP National Office at 719-634-0699.