#1 Post – Rolling into Rio with an eye Toward Tokyo

Well, well, well… what a few months we have had in the world of high performance water polo! It’s 77 days until Rio 2016 kicks off and our Aussie Stingers and Sharks are starting to get into full swing with final preparations before the elusive 13 are named at the end of June.

The Aussie Stingers have recently held their final domestic camp at the AIS after four fantastic years of support. The teams mentor coach Reg Hatch captured the intensity of the camp and penned the below which he sent back to his aspiring athletes in the heart of our nation, Alice Springs!

“Training at the elite level: stand tentatively on the edge and preparing for the initial shock of the cold water – an unforgiving jolt to the homeostatic equilibrium. They get in and start what will be two relentless hours of high level training. The coaches huddle and watch while discussing the session; referees, development and the next steps: the physiologist and physiotherapist stand away and compare notes on where the athletes are at and consider prognostic possibilities. The intensity is quite astounding and we keep reminding ourselves that this is quite a special group of athletes with a ‘blue-sky’ vision of the future – there are many who come in to watch and go away marvelling and impressed with the quality of the work and the attitude of the team – everything is positive and nothing is taken as an insult because it is about being better than the best in the brief moment that is available for comment. There is assessment of the team and of their training based on performance at the end and this is totally driven by the five questions asked at every session – they answer these questions against where they sit as the world’s best – the scores derived are applied based on their performance and only change with the increase in performance values – training at the elite level – hard but satisfying in the improvement.”

The Aussie Stingers jetted off to LA this week to take on the world’s best, USA, in a test series before they venture to China in preparation for the World League Finals being held in Shanghai from the 7– 12 June. The horizon is nigh for this group and we wish them all the best.

The Aussie Sharks will be awaiting the arrival of their female counterparts, with Elvis Fatovic’s men currently in the USA playing their own test series against their World League Intercontinental rivals. The Sharks came away from the tournament with a well deserved Silver and if not for a ‘hail mary’ goal with two seconds on the clock, could easily have earned back to back gold. The Tournament proved fruitful with wins against Rio group stage teams Brazil and Japan as well as getting back together after a few months without international competition.

Both teams will play a double header vs the USA live on one of the countries main channels, NBC Sunday 22nd May. A truly incredible experience for the Stingers and Sharks so be sure to look out for the reports.

The Sharks will round out their World League campaign in June with a couple of camps en route to Huizhou, China with World League Finals competition running from 21st – 26th June.

While all of this action has been happening the next generation of Olympic players were bashing away in the pool at our inaugural Toward Tokyo camp held at the AIS. The camp included 98 athletes, 23 coaches, 10 staff & officials, 7 referees, 14 water polo sessions, 14 education sessions, 120 physio appointments, 16 officially run games and over 45 hours activity across 8 days for each participant.

Matt Turnbull our Pathways Manager who was responsible for leading the camp summarised its success;

“The Toward Tokyo concept was a huge success hitting all of the high performance outcomes we set out to achieve. The camp was a celebration of our water polo talent in Australia and it showed the athletes what it takes to be successful at the senior level. The energy from the coaches, athletes and support staff was fantastic and it was the first occasion in the sports history where we hosted a camp on this scale. The camp took a holistic approach with the professional development of the athletes, coaches, officials and support staff with educational sessions, workshops and conferences scheduled throughout the week. Everyone in attendance had really positive feedback about the concept and it’s delivery, including the national coaches. We hope to make the next one bigger and better than the original.”

For more on Towards Tokyo – check out our video.

The future looks bright for the sport if we embrace new initiatives with the enthusiasm, humility, collaboration and alignment shown at the Toward Tokyo camp. Well done to all involved.

In the coming weeks we will announce our national junior and youth teams for upcoming tours this year. We will have nine teams in total travelling to international competitions during July and August rounded out by our B98 men’s team venturing to Montenegro for the FINA Youth World Championships. In response at an open letter received recently it is worth noting the below regarding our national junior and youth teams;

  • All teams are named in accordance with the top age group aligned with FINA’s Junior and Youth World Championships schedule
  • Team selections adhere to the WPA Selection Policy with no priority given to ‘even’ or ‘odd’ year of birth players, state or club
  • All junior and youth teams are user pay and as such funding for ‘odd’ or ‘even’ year of birth age groups, gender or otherwise is not taken into consideration
  • There are various international competition opportunities which influence what teams are selected and what type of tour
  • WPA values all aspiring junior players at each age group and has plans to develop teams over a minimum of three years preceding a FINA World Championship.

Congratulations to all those selected and wish you all the best as you wear the Aussie colours with pride.

Pretty hectic time and it will only be increasing in the months to come as we edge ever so steadily toward the greatest show on earth and pinnacle of our sport. I’m sure you will hear from me again before the flame is lit so until then…be your best.

Tom Hill

WPA High Performance Manager