The US men’s waterpolo team is currently training in Serbia’s capital Belgrade, having common training and playing against the team of Partizan, all in preparation for the upcoming Olympic Games in London, Great Britain. The members of Team USA, finalist of the 2008 Olympics, have trained together this past season with four members coming back from playing for different clubs in Europe. Srdjan Tomic is in Belgrade and asked captain Tony Azevedo and head coach Terry Schroeder about their expectations leading up to the 2012 Olympics.
What are your expectations for the 2012 Olympic Games? Obviously the expectation is the gold medal. Our team came together this year in the US to train together, all of that for the best preparation for ‘London’.
What about the other teams? Who are the main competitors for Team USA? I think right now Serbia is probably the best team in the world. They consistently play the best waterpolo. And after that I think it is an even game; teams like Croatia, Spain, Italy, Hungary and ourselves. Every tournament some team does well. I think there are about four of five teams that are all very equal.
What is the main reason for Team USA to come down to Belgrade in your preparation? The games. Obviously Partizan is one of the best clubs in the world and we need games and competition. We have been swimming and lifting for the past couple of three months.
What are the next steps in this preparation? We will be playing some more matches with Pro Recco in Italy, after that we will host the FINA World League preliminary round, then an exhibition tournament with Croatia and Hungary (May 26-28) and after that hopefully the FINA World League Super Final (June 12-17). And of course the Olympic Games after all this.
For you personally, can we expect you back in Europe to play some more waterpolo? Of course, I have many more years of playing waterpolo in front of me. I do not know anything at this moment but I will definitely be back in Europe next season.
Could that be with Partizan? I would love. Partizan is, like I said, one of the best clubs in the world, so that would be great.
With all the experience that you gained with the different top teams in Europe that you have played for, how is your perspective of Europe? Is it different than before? For sure. I am back in the USA now and I do not want to be. I love Europe much more with everything. The food, the culture, the lifestyle. I want to stay here for many more years.
This will be your 4th Olympics. Can we expect another term? Yes. It is in Brazil, where I was born. I have to be there!
What are your expectations for the Olympics? We are of course to do well. This will be one of the most competitive Olympic Games that we have ever seen. I believe there are seven or eight teams that all have a chance to win a medal. It will be a matter of preparation and putting everything together at the right time.
Who are the favorites to win in your opinion? Well Serbia have definitely been the most consistent team over the last two or three years. I think they are the favorite going into this Olympics. They should be the favorite. And Italy of course, winning the 2011 FINA World championships playing very well. And of course, you cannot count out teams like Hungary, three consecutive-time winners, and Montenegro and Croatia.
What is the main quality of Team USA coming in to this Olympic Games? The main quality for us is the experience. We have a group of guys who have been together for a long time. Some of them have played together for 12 to 14 years. They know each other very well. And since in our sport, it comes down to who plays the best as a team, their experience together will be valuable.
What do you think is the main quality of the Serbian team? Well the Serbs have some of the best players in the world at each position. They have some youthful energetic players, and some experienced veteran players playing together very well.
Can we expect some Team USA players going back to play in Europe next season? Absolutely. The experience they gained playing overseas has already proved to be valuable. Our guys that have been playing in Europe have improved dramatically. The have learned so much about the game and all the intense competitive games they have played are great for them, so they will be back.