Peru Water Polo Coach Emilio Torrealva on Intercontinental Cup: ‘Beautiful Experience for Our Athletes’

Photo Courtesy: Luis Olaya

Emilio Torrealva Gallardo, coach of the Peruvian women’s water polo team, has been for almost five years the head of an ambitious project that seeks to make the Peruvian team competitive. Emilio is a Venezuelan coach and also played and trained in his country. Currently, he is also in charge of the men’s team on an interim basis while the new coach is appointed. He coached the women’s team during the Lima 2019 Pan American Games and also at the U20 World Cup in Israel.

By Luis Olaya

How was the evolution of the girls in recent years? Did the pandemic affect the water polo program?

After the pandemic, as for all countries, it was difficult to adapt to the new lifestyle, but little by little the girls got used to it and began to lose their fear thanks to the vaccine. It has not been possible to see a great evolution in that time since in Peru the restrictions were lifted little by little. Now the girls are developing very well and we have several players abroad. As for women’s water polo, we are on a good path.

What effect will it bring organizing this type of event have on Peruvian water polo?

It is a magnificent event, we have nothing to envy to European pools. All the countries comment that our infrastructure is first class, and this type of event allows us to have greater visibility so that more people begin to know what water polo is. There are still many things to change and improve so that the stands are full of public. This event allows Peru to be recognized internationally.

This is quite a beautiful experience for our athletes. Training with teams like Australia and the United States gives us another competitive brush. The fact that our players can watch this kind of match also gives them an extremely good learning experience.

I see that the players, coaches and the federation make an effort to make water polo known. How important is it that the local press promotes this type of event?

It’s very important. Water polo is well known in countries like the USA, Serbia and Croatia, but in South America, it is not. Many times it happened to me in Venezuela as a player, when we were even top 3 on the continent, that people didn’t know about waterpolo existence. Now, we have the advantage of having social and mobile networks to access more information.

How complicated is it to get players for water polo in Peru?

Here it is complicated because of a cultural issue. For example, in my country, when I saw a child with physical conditions for this sport, I take him to the pool, teach him how to swim and from there to play water polo. In Peru, it doesn’t matter if I see a boy with physical conditions, I have to tell him that he has to pay a monthly fee to train in a private club. There is not as much support on that side, so the main objective has to be to train the players who arrive our clubs correctly. Sometimes some players are trained by coaches who are not specialists in water polo and they create bad habits that are difficult to correct.

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Once you have players, how difficult is it to convince them to continue in water polo? I see many new faces in the men’s water polo team. Some of the older players prioritize their jobs, studies or other activities.

When I arrived in Peru I heard that the university was the cemetery for athletes, and now I see that it is. When an athlete arrives at university, it is very difficult for him to continue in the sport due to the lack of support. Here the advantages for student athletes are not taken into account much.

How complicated is it for the Peruvian player to go abroad to improve his water polo?

The truth is that I don’t see it as difficult. Paying for a university in Peru is expensive and has practically the same cost as going abroad to study and continue playing for a club or for the university. In many cases, like in Spain, that helps pay for the studies. Now we have several players abroad like Julio Alzamora (Spain), Alan Chang (USA), Carolina Rodriguez and Rebeca Rodriguez (Spain).

What is the closest and main objective for Peruvian water polo?

The objective of this training base is for athletes to feel a greater commitment with the team in important events. Soon we will be in the Bolivarian games and in women’s water polo I hope to be among the top three. We have worked to beat Chile, Venezuela and play a good game against Colombia.