Searching for Past Glory, Pro Recco Hires Four-Time Olympic Winner Ratko Rudic as Coach

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Ratko Rudic exalts after Brazil beats Serbia in 2016 Olympics. Photo Courtesy: Laszlo Balgoh

By Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor

“I’m just a pensioner,” Ratko Rudic replied yesterday when Fabrizio Napoli, a writer for Waterpolo Development World, enquired about rumors that the legendary water polo coach might come out of retirement to assume the coaching reins at Pro Recco.

As of today, Rudic is no longer just a retiree drawing down on his pension.

Daniele Rocagliolo, Communications Director for Pro Recco, confirmed this morning what Italian polo observers have speculated about since Vladimir Vujasinovic stepped down following the club’s devastating 9-7 loss Sunday to Olympiacos in the LEN Champions League Final in Genoa: Rudic, arguably the most successful coach in water polo history, will assume the coaching reins of one of the world’s most prestigious clubs.

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Photo Courtesy: Pro Recco

A press release from the club stated that “Pro Recco Waterpolo 1913 is pleased to announce that Ratko Rudic is the new coach of the first team.” Included in the presser was a quote from the International Swimming Hall of Fame that Rudic is “One of the best, if not the best, water polo coach who ever trod the poolside.”

The storied coach’s record has no rival: the four Olympic golds Rudic won at the helm of three different national teams—Yugoslavia in 1984 and 1988, Italy in 1992, Croatia in 2012—represent the pinnacle of a career studded with countless success. A Croatian, born in 1948 in Belgrade, Rudic played for two legendary Yugoslavian polo clubs: Jadran Split and Partizan Belgrade. He has been a national coach for five different countries: Yugoslavia, Italy, USA, his native Croatia and Brazil.

Perhaps Rudic’s ultimate success as a coach dates back to the Rio Games in 2016: driving the host Brazilian team to a stunning upset of a dominant Serbia club that would go on to capture Olympic gold.

Now, the peerless coach has a new mission: restore Pro Recco to the top of European water polo. Pro Recco owns more Champions League titles—eight—then any professional club, but has not captured top honors since 2015.

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Rudic at a FINA Water Polo Conference in 2018. Photo Courtesy: FINA

“I am very honored to have been called by Pro Recco, the most titled company in the world with a great tradition and a bright future ahead,” said Rudic in a statement. “It was not hard to accept: [coaching] Recco; this is a project that excites me and gives me great energy. On the one hand [there are] the sports results, which are fundamental, on the other the promotion of water polo, with marketing and organization which President Felugo is already working on very well.

“I sensed a great atmosphere and an infectious enthusiasm, factors decisive in my choice.”

As always, Rudic’s objective is: championships.

“When I take a team I always carry it to win.” he said.

“As soon as we decided to change [coaches], Ratko Rudic was the only name taken into account: a teacher, a winner, simply water polo in the flesh.” stated Pro Recco President Maurizio Felugo. “He has changed the history of water polo.

“I am convinced this represents a guarantee for the future of Pro Recco, to keep winning and improving. [Rudic’s] arrival is an extraordinary step forward, not only for our company but for the whole Italian movement. If our sport wants to grow it needs the skill and the charisma of Rudic. A big welcome, Ratko!”

With content from Pro Recco