USA Water Polo Olympic Notebook #1; USA Men Scheduled for Feature in Sports Illustrated

ATHENS, Greece, August 15-29. WATER Polo in Athens covers this entire period, with the Women’s Gold Medal Game on August 26 and the Men’s Gold Medal Game on August 29, the final day of the Games.

Both American squads have difficult brackets in the competition. The men will play on the odd numbered days beginning the 15th, with the women playing even numbered days starting on August 16.


A1 – Russia (RUS)
A2 – Serbia-Montenegro (SCG)
A3 – Croatia (CRO)
A4 – United States of America (USA)
A5 – Hungary (HUN)
A6 – Kazakhstan (KAZ)

B1 – Germany (GER)
B2 – Egypt (EGY)
B3 – Italy (ITA)
B4 – Spain (ESP)
B5 – Australia (AUS)
B6 – Greece (GRE)

A1 – Greece (GRE)
A2 – Australia (AUS)
A3 – Italy (ITA)
A4 – Kazakhstan (KAZ)

B1 – Russia (RUS)
B2 – United States of America (USA)
B3 – Hungary (HUN)
B4 – Canada (CAN)

USA Men Roll into Athens from Belgrade
The last four years haven’t been about results for U.S. men’s water polo head coach Ratko Rudic. They’ve been about getting ready for this week. When Team USA marched into the Olympic Aquatic Center for its opening game against Croatia on August 15, it was the culmination of four years of sacrifice, boot-camp style training and lackluster results. But Rudic, the game’s most accomplished coach, has been putting wins and losses behind training the entire time, with his troops often training for 3-4 hours the morning or afternoon before competition against some of the world’s best.

For the last few years, Team USA has been regarded as a “dangerous”
opponent, though it has yet to be cast into the mix of medal favorites
heading into the games. But now, the world’s No. 6 team is rested, focused and looking to upset the balance of power in the European-dominated ranks of water polo.

Team USA enters Athens on the momentum of a second place finish at the
Belgrade Trophy tournament, losing a close 5-4 decision to host Serbia and Montenegro (No. 3) in the final on August 7. In the last year, Team USA has posted some big wins over established medal winners including an 11-9 drubbing of World Champion Hungary in an NBC-televised game on July 5. The U.S. also took three out of four from No. 4 Greece in Greece and defeated Russia in its Olympic Pool on the same trip earlier this year.

Women Ready to Roll

Guy Baker has authored Team USA’s turnaround over the last half decade, taking the team from eighth in the world 1998 to first in 2003. He has guided the U.S. to first place finishes in seven of its last eight international tournaments, including a tourney gold at last week’s Pre-Olympic Tournament in Gorizia, Italy.

Moody is the team captain, a veteran of the 2000 Olympic silver medal team and the only player on the roster from outside of California. She scored the game-winning goal in Team USA’s semifinal win over the Netherlands at the 2000 Olympics and is slated to come back as an assistant coach with the team after these Games.

Villa, one of the game’s most well-known players, is also heading for her second Olympics. Villa, a notorious big-game shooter, netted the game-tying goal against Australia with 13 seconds to go in the gold medal game of the 2000 Olympics, but the Aussies came back to win, 4-3, on a last second shot by Yvette Higgins.

Rulon and Frank are both first-time Olympians. Rulon, 20, is the youngest member of the team, despite only having joined the World Champs in full-time training this January. Frank is regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the game today.

Men in Sports Illustrated
The U.S. men’s water polo team was scheduled to be the subject of a lengthy feature article in a recent Sports Illustrated.. Freelance writer Bruce Schoenfeld penned the article on the team and the sacrifices made by its players for the sake of the Olympic dream. His article reflects the struggles that each athlete has to contend with as a member of the U.S. National Team, training up to 10 hours a day while still trying to be normal guys in their 20s. The feature will be one of the largest on any Olympic team sport leading into the Athens Games.

Other Photos to Find
Also in the news…Wolf Wigo (New York, NY/Stanford/New York AC), Tony Azevedo (Long Beach, CA/Stanford/Long Beach Shore) and Ellen Estes (Novato, CA/Stanford) appear in a photo spread in this month’s issue of Vanity Fair. The spread was done by famed photographer Bruce Weber at the Beverly Hills Hotel in California earlier this summer. Wigo also appears in the current issue of GQ Magazine in an article about his fitness level. Those photos were taken by Paul Jasmin at the USA Water Polo National Aquatic Center in Los Alamitos, Calif. USA driver Ericka Lorenz (San Diego, CA/Cal Berkeley) can be found in the newest issue of Muscle and Fitness Hers Magazine, while another hit for Azevedo was featured in last week’s In Touch Weekly. Still on shelves is the newest issue of Stuff Magazine, which includes some glam photos of Amber Stachowski (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA/UCLA), Thalia Munro (Santa Barbara, CA/UCLA) and Jackie Frank.

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