Olympics

For Canada's water polo teams, Pan American Games provided valuable testing ground

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Canada water polo national teams have made steady progress since holding training camps last summer in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, according to Justin Oliveira, Water Polo Canada’s high performance director.

In an interview with The Japan Times after the Pan American Games wrapped up last weekend in Lima, Peru, Oliveira said he’s pleased with the general direction that Canada’s men’s and women’s teams are headed in.

The Canadian women qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with a silver-medal finish, falling to the United States 24-4 in Saturday’s finale. As a result, the team qualified for the Olympics for the first time since the 2004 Athens Games.

The men’s squad also advanced to the gold-medal match, falling to the Americans 18-6 on the same day. It was the best finish at the Pan American Games for the team since 2011, when it earned the silver medal.

The women’s team underwent a change in leadership in April of 2019, which has allowed the program to make some key changes to support the final year of our Olympic Quadrennial,” Oliveira commented. “This includes but is not limited to deciding to centralize our program in Montreal during the 2019-20 season. Qualifying for the Olympics is a huge achievement for our women’s program, and for our national federation.”

In April, David Paradelo became the women’s national team head coach after serving for six years as an assistant. He stepped into the top spot that was previously held by Theocharis Pavlides.

Veteran Italian mentor Giuseppe “Pino” Porzio, meanwhile, continues to challenge the men’s squad to reach new heights.

Oliveira is pleased with the overall results.

“Our men’s program completed a good season by equalizing our best ever result at the 2019 Pan American Games winning the silver medal,” he noted. “Although it did not achieve our goal for the summer, we’ve build some confidence leading into our final qualification opportunity in March.”

Looking back at the Pan American Games as a measuring stick for the players, which can give them clear-cut evidence of their potential and a reminder that hard work pays off, Oliveira offered this assessment: “The Pan American Games was a great opportunity for us to test our level of play within our continental region. Our men’s team had a few more closer games, including a narrow victory against Brazil, to make the gold-medal match. The men also had a tough final match against the United States where their experience and level of play were critical factors in their performance.”

He continued: “This summer was a very challenging summer for all teams with many events one after the other. Our women’s team did not perform optimally in the final match versus the United States, which demonstrated to us that we must put some key work in to close this gap.”

In July, the Canadian women traveled to Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, where they trained with Japan, Australia and New Zealand in the run-up to the 2019 World Aquatic Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.

With a 2017 agreement in place to utilize Morioka, Iwate Prefecture’s training facilities in the run-up to the 2020 Olympics as part of Japan’s Host Town program, Water Polo Canada has given the Tohoku city’s residents at least one foreign water polo national team to root for. There’s still a chance for the men’s team, too.

Looking ahead, Oliveira doesn’t have a finalized schedule yet for pre-Olympic training with a confirmed visit to Morioka.

“However, the women’s team will have a key training block likely in July of 2020 to support our preparation for the Olympic Games,” he told The Japan Times.

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