Adam Krikorian: A Decade of Team USA Excellence; A Lifetime of Water Polo Devotion

December 16, 2018; Woollett Aquatics Center, Irvine, CA, USA; USA Water Polo Women's Exhibition Series: USA vs China; Photo credit: Catharyn Hayne for USA Water Polo
Adam Krikorian, U.S. Head Women's Water Polo Coach, gathers his team before a match against China last December. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

A tweet from USA Water Polo’s account—followed by numerous accolades—registered a specific milestone for Adam Krikorian, U.S. Senior Women’s Water Polo Head Coach: a decade leading Team USA to unparalleled success.

Since taking over the national team from Guy Baker in 2009, following the American women’s bitter disappointment in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where they lost 9-8 in the gold medal match to an underdog Dutch team, all Krikorian has done is won. Now, a decade has passed and he is arguably the most successful Olympic coach in America—and he’s not done yet.

Two Olympic Golds (2012, 2016), three World Championships (2009, 2015 and 2017) and three World Cups (2010, 2014 and 2018); the U.S. is currently riding an major tournament winning streak that has ballooned to 12 titles, and has not dropped a match in almost a year. The last loss suffered by Team USA was April 2, 2018 to Australia in the FINA Intercontinental Tournament at Auckland, New Zealand.

Since then, it’s been 37-straight wins, including gold in the 2018 Intercontinental Cup (getting revenge against Australia 10-7 in the final); an 8-6 win over the Netherlands in the 2018 FINA World League Super Final in Kunshan, China; capturing the 2018 FINA World Cup with an 8-5 victory over host Russia; and just last Sunday again capturing the Intercontinental Cup, beating the host Australians in Perth 14-12.

The prospects for continued dominance by the Yanks are good; a lock to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, they are favorites to capture a third-straight Olympic Gold medal, a feat last accomplished by the great Hungarian men’s squads of 2000, 2004 and 2008.

28-07-2017: Waterpolo: Amerika v Spanje: Boedapest (L-R) during the Gold medal waterpolomatch between women USA and Spain at the final of the 17th FINA World Championships 2017 in Budapest, Hungary Photo / Foto: Gertjan Kooij

Team USA victorious at 2017 FINA World Championships. Photo Courtesy: Beeldboot.nl\Gertjan Kooij

What’s equally amazing is how successful Krikorian was BEFORE he took over the U.S. national team. In a decade of dominance leading the UCLA women’s team (1999-2009), the Bruin alum compiled an overall record of 287-44 and an incredible eight national championships. Equally impressive, over that span UCLA registered a record of 101-14 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play—and the program’s worst record in the country’s best polo conference during that span was 6-3, Krikorian’s first year as coach.

The Mountain View, California native was also an accomplished polo athlete, lettering all four years as an undergraduate at UCLA (1992-95) while helping the Bruins to an NCAA title in his senior year and being selected for the all-tournament team.

To sum up why Krikorian’s teams are so consistently excellent—almost unbelievably so—following a 2016 friendly between the U.S. and Hungary, the greatest national team coach in American water polo history was bracingly blunt about accountability.

“We know that we can be beat on any given day, but we also know that we have this wealth of experience and success that gives us confidence going into a game,” Krikorian said on the Greenwich YMCA pool deck. “The thing we talk about a lot in terms of our preparation is continuing to be humble enough to prepare but confident enough to perform.

“When we have that mindset—which we’ve had—we’re tough to beat.”

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