A Match Made in Water Polo Heaven: Luca Cupido to Train with Pro Recco

Luca Cupido with Cal. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

By Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor

A press release earlier today from Pro Recco, the Italian First Division water polo club, was a flash of promising news for Luca Cupido—and positive vibes for the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team as well. Formerly with the University of California at Berkeley, the 6-4 attacker who last June was awarded the Cutino Award as America’s top male collegiate polo athlete, agreed to train with one of the world’s most prestigious clubs, potentially as early as next January.

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Photo Courtesy: Pro Recco

This represents an important opportunity for a player who may prove pivotal to American hopes in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. A star performer for four years under Cal Head Coach Kirk Everist, in 2017 Cupido won every conceivable honor on this side of the Atlantic—National Player of the Year, Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year, the Cutino Award—and will now have the opportunity to train with the world’s best players and play for Ratko Rudic, perhaps the most successful coach in the history of the sport.

According to the presser, Cupido, born in Santa Margherita, approximately an hour away from Recco’s home pool in Genoa, Italy, will train with the club after completing his studies at Cal later this year—and if a more attractive professional offer does not materialize.

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Amanda Longan, Luca Cupido with their Cutino Awards. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Playing for Recco would represent a homecoming for Cupido, who won youth titles with the Italian national team before debuting in the Italian First Division with RN Camogli. He then travelled to Cal for a distinguished career that included an NCAA title in 2016. By virtue of his mother’s American citizenship, Cupido was eligible to represent the Stars and Stripes in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, where he posted four goals.

“I will be available to Mr. Rudic for the second part of the season, aware of being the last to arrive but with the will to provide my contribution to the team, whether in the Champions League or in training,” Cupid said in a statement. “Pro Recco has always been my first choice. The opportunity to compare myself with top players is important. With them everything becomes easier; just a glance and you understand what to do.”

Adding that Recco, which has won a record eight LEN Championships, is perhaps the most recognizable water polo club in the world. Cupido said: “White and blue are the colors of the champions” and that three of his water polo idols wore the club’s colors: Vladimir Vujasinovic, Tamas Kasas and Maurizio Felugo, now the Pro Recco president.

“I have always looked at these athletes with deep admiration,” he said. “They played more for their teammates than for themselves. I too like being altruistic; I prefer a winning assist to a goal.”

Because of his importance to the American men’s Olympic efforts, Cupido asked for and received the blessing of Dejan Udovicic, head U.S. men’s coach, who reportedly gave his star attacker “full freedom of choice.”

Emphasizing that he’s fully committed to playing for Team USA in 2020, Cupido added: “We are a young team with players who can handle many positions. The reduction of the roster to eleven [for the upcoming Olympics] can be good for our type of game.”

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Maurizio Felugo. Photo Courtesy: Pro Recco

Felugo, who has been observing Cupido since he was a young player, said: “Luca is a local boy and an excellent water polo player, so seeing him with the Pro Recco cap makes us doubly happy.”

According to the Recco leader, getting a degree is paramount as well as a wise decision; having a chance to play in the Champions League represents an excellent bonus.

“[He is] a young man who has invested in his studies, making a choice in contrast that brings him honor and demonstrates his maturity.”

With information—translated from Italian—provided by Pro Recco

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Author: Michael Randazzo

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Michael Randazzo is a freelance contributor at Swimming World focusing on water polo. He covers polo all over the United States for SW and other publications, including the Collegiate Water Polo Association, Skip Shot, The New York Times, Total Water Polo, Water Polo Planet and others. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children and roots for St. Francis Brooklyn polo.

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