In a little over a month, dreams finally become reality and the endless prediction chatter gives way to the actual games being played. The Olympics are upon us and London is the scene of what should be a riveting sixteen days. One story that the water polo world has been following is the growth of British water polo on both the men’s and women’s side. They have gone from possibly not being given a berth to the games to watching their women battle the United States last month before succumbing 7-6. In that matchup, the United States required ten saves out of Betsey Armstrong to preserve victory while the British lost by one despite only going three for ten on the power play.
With the Olympics upon us and British water polo on the rise, I caught up with Great Britain Assistant Men’s National team Coach Tim Kendall to talk water polo and more important matters in our final question. Below is our interview.
When we last spoke there was still uncertainty that Great Britain would be participating in water polo. Can you tell us about the excitement that took place when your Olympic reservations were confirmed?
Yes, Trevor, it was fantastic news: not at all something we’d taken for granted. Our head coaches, Cristian Iordache and Szilveszter Feteke, along with our programme manager, Joanna Wray, presented our case for inclusion to the British Olympic Association very well and strongly. We do appreciate how fortunate we are to take up the European place at the Olympics and intend to make the most of the opportunity, at the Games and beyond.
Above all else, it’s the hard graft of the players, the men around Europe and the women in Manchester, that we have to thank for putting us in a position where we are perceived as competitive.
What is your hope for the Great Britain men's squad entering the 2012 Games?
While we are under no illusion as to how tough it will be, we want to go there and cause an upset. This is our chance to test ourselves against the best: in the men’s group, the very best (all four semi-finalists from the last Olympics). We intend to provide quite a test for our opponents, and to give ourselves something to build on for the future.
I know your association is with the British men; however I am sure you have followed the women and saw they just played the United States to a one goal game. If they can do that, they can compete for a medal. How excited are you about their growth?
Very excited, Trevor. I know how encouraged our women were by the support GB received playing USA at the test event at the Olympic venue in May. Really, with the quality and volume of support like that, anything is possible.
Bear in mind that the Olympics are the one time every four years when our great sport receives decent media coverage; when we are in the public eye. The setup and lighting of the water polo arena suggests the atmosphere of matches will transfer excellently to TV. Glancing at the quality of the images of our performance analysis at the test event, the speed, skill and physicality will come across loud and clear. Here is the story and concept behind the arena: http://nigelbidmead.com/?p=145.
One innovation is the illumination of the two and five metre lines. Apparently this doesn’t make a huge difference for the players, but does make things clearer and more dramatic for spectators. Here’s an idea of what they look like, thanks to El Cuervo: http://tinyurl.com/c4gnns4.
I know people who had never been to a water polo match who were hugely impressed watching the test event; more impressed by water polo than any of the many other sports they have witnessed at the Olympic Park, particularly the contact aspects of the game. It bodes well for capturing the public imagination, and continuing to build interest in water polo towards the next Olympics and beyond.
What kind of scene do you expect for the first men's and women's water polo matchup involving Great Britain? I said on the radio that a dangerous draw for anyone would be the first game against the British.
Yes, both our teams will be very dangerous opponents in those first matches. The men play Romania on the first evening of competition at the arena: with a sell-out crowd it will be a terrific atmosphere. We actually have a training camp In Romania next week. Although they have world-class players, we believe we are capable of an upset. The women’s first match is against Russia on 30th July: I know how optimistic they are about our chances and about all their hard work paying off. They are in Spain next in their preparation for matches against Italy and their hosts. Best to let our women speak for themselves: http://tinyurl.com/d9j6yhd.
On the men’s side, we now have Zoltan Kasas bringing his huge experience (five Olympics, two as a player and three as assistant coach to the Gold medaling Hungarians) to bear as our consultant coach, working poolside with Cristian and myself, focusing our preparation for 29th July. The guys are working with great intensity and ever improving quality. Following is a link for people interested in learning more about our squad bit.ly/LIxeew.
For our American fans making the trip across the pond, what pub/restaurant must we try out in London?
Where to start answering that question! While, for obvious reasons, I’m out of touch with the scene in London myself, so these are recommendations from friends regarding pubs in the vicinity. By the river Thames, and pleasant in the summer, are the Prospect of Whitby and the Captain Kidd. A few other pubs names to conjure with are The Gun, The Old Doctor Butler’s Head, The Cheshire Cheese and The Seven Stars.
Traditionally the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent has been a staple for polo players, after rehydrating. There is a great choice (so I’m told), in all respects of food and entertainment, on the east side of London, from Brick Lane to Liverpool Street, and up to Shoreditch and Old Street.
If I may, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Jim Solum for the early viewing of his finely detailed articles for waterpoloplanet
With that our interview ended. All of us at Water Polo Planet look forward to watching the British do battle at the Olympic Games. They have done an outstanding job with the water polo venue and have set a template for how to grow your program and have it peaking for when the Olympics arrive in your country. I cannot wait to see those first games that Great Britain plays in because from all accounts it should be a wild scene. You can never discount the “hometown mojo” factor when it comes to big games. It is a simple fact that role players derive confidence when playing at their own friendly confines. That is why homecourt advantage is coveted in every pro or college sport played in America. Keep an eye on this when the Olympic Games kick off as I believe the British will exceed expectations in water polo at the upcoming Games.