Adam Krikorian, Dejan Udovicic Re-Signed for Paris Olympic Cycle by USA Water Polo

SW May 2020 - Silver Lining Could Turn To Gold - Positive Side of the Olympics Postponement for Water Polo - Coach Adam Krikorian - Photo by USAWP Orange Pictures
Adam Krikorian

Adam Krikorian, Dejan Udovicic Re-Signed for Paris Olympic Cycle by USA Water Polo

USA Water Polo will be in familiar hands as it prepares for the 2024 Paris Olympics, with the organization extending the contracts of Adam Krikorian and Dejan Udovicic to lead the women’s and men’s teams, respectively.

The moves were announced Tuesday. Krikorian’s case is a no-brainer, provided the coach was up for another cycle. He’s turned the United States women into the world’s elite program, bar none. The U.S. has won three consecutive Olympic titles with Krikorian at the helm. He’s also won four World Championships, three FINA World Cup titles, 11 FINA World League Titles and three Pan American Games. The women set a record for consecutive international wins with 69.

The U.S. had a 12-game Olympic winning streak snapped in Tokyo, but Krikorian rallied a veteran bunch to win their final four matches by an average of nine goals per. That included a 14-5 demolition of Spain in the gold-medal match.

After the tumultuous wait for Tokyo, Krikorian had pledged to take time to regroup and assess his goals for the next cycle. But with Maggie Steffens, Maddie Musselman and Ashleigh Johnson – respectively, the last two Olympic Most Outstanding Players and the best goalkeeper in the world – he’s ready to get back to work.

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Photo Courtesy: USA Water Polo

“I would like to thank USA Water Polo leadership, including the board of directors, for their continued support,” Krikorian said in a press release. “The opportunity to coach these remarkable women and the honor I feel in helping lead this program forward is not something I take for granted. With the shortened time frame to Paris 2024 and an eye on Los Angeles 2028, the work ahead will be extensive and undoubtedly stimulating.”

With a rebuilding roster, Udovicic led the U.S men to sixth in the Tokyo Olympics, their best finish in the last quarter-century. It’s an improvement on the 10th-place result from Rio in 2016, though the goal is to return to the silver medal won in 2008.

Udovicic took the reins of the team in 2013 and revamped the talent pipeline, facilitating a record 19 Americans playing for European clubs. He’s guided the U.S. to gold medals at the 2015 and 2019 Pan Am Games and a pair of FINA World League semifinals. Udovicic won Olympic bronze medals in Beijing and London as the coach of his native Serbia.

The U.S. went 2-3 to qualify fourth from Group A in Tokyo. It lost to Spain in the quarterfinals, then beat Italy before falling to Croatia in the fifth-place game.

“I’d like to thank Chris Ramsey, John Abdou, and the USA Water Polo board of directors for their continued trust in me leading the men’s program,” Udovicic said. “Just as important, I must thank the men on this team. The work they have put in over the last five years has been so necessary in everything we have accomplished and will accomplish in the future. This group gets better with every match, and I’m excited to build off of our results in Tokyo. We had the youngest team at the Olympic Games, but we showed we can compete with everyone. With our experience as a team and the important time our athletes are spending in Europe, this will give us a strong position headed to Paris. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

The next major tournament on the horizon for both programs is the 2022 FINA World Championship, next May in Fukuoka, Japan.

“USA Water Polo is excited to announce the return of our two National Team head coaches,” USA Water Polo Chief Sport Performance Officer John Abdou said. “Stability is important in team building, and keeping the leaders of our programs intact will only help build from the efforts of the last quadrennial. It’s a great privilege of mine both professionally and personally to continue to work with Adam and Dejan. Professionally, they are experts and leaders in their field and deeply tied into our game internationally. Personally, they are men of integrity and character who have taught me a great deal and have made themselves available as a resource to coaches and athletes all across the country. The two-and-a-half-year road to Paris is well paved with our coaches remaining in place.”

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