Dominance of Hungary’s water polo team this season
Review of summer tournaments and championships
A water polo tournament of the Summer University Games ended in China. It became the longest at the World Summer University Games — the competition lasted for two weeks, from 27 July to 8 August. 17 teams participated in it. The sports staff of Realnoe Vremya sums the water polo competition and the summer international season in general up.
The men’s tournament turned out to be extremely interesting
The Summer Universiade in China ended on 8 August, and traditionally, medals in water polo were awarded on the last days where Hungary and Italy met in the main final, while Georgia and USA fought for bronze.
The men’s water polo tournament in Chengdu turned out to be interesting enough. Clearly, this isn’t a European championship level that took place last year at the same time with the World Championship and next year it will open the Olympic tournament. But water polo in China can easily be ranked third in a kind of competition rating comparing it with, let’s say, an Olympic qualification tournament.
It should be understood that everything is comparable, and at some University Games where water polo tournaments — a sport that is part of the main programme of university Olympics — weren’t held at all like in Thailand in 2007. Only seven men’s teams arrived in Shenzhen 12 years ago when China held the Universiade again, which is four less than now. Also, the water polo tournament in China faced competition with the 2nd World Beach Games, which kicked off on Bali (Indonesia) on 5 August.
Universiade as test before big tournaments
It is interesting that Universiade tournaments are often used to prepare national teams for home competitions. So Brazil has been actively competing since 2011 preparing the men’s national team for the Olympic tournament in Rio de Janeiro. South Korea, in turn, has joined the Universiade since Guangzhou in 2015, which was a test event before the FINA World Championships in the same city in 2019. So now exotic Singapore appeared in the men and women’s tournaments trying to determine the readiness of its teams for the 2025 World Aquatics at home it will hold instead of Kazan.
Singapore and South Korea logically became outsiders of the men’s water polo tournament in China, however, it was quite good training before the Asian Games this year, which will start in the Celestial Kingdom in September, in Hangzhou. Besides Singapore, a desire to get acquainted with university sport brought a delegation from Germany to China, the forward will host the next Summer Universiade in 2025.
Apart from Germany, South Korea and Singapore, the host of the games — China — and several countries that are usually considered traditional competitors applied for the water polo tournament. It is Hungary, US, Japan (it has been stably participating since the Universiade in Kazan in 2013), Italy (it also played in Kazan but then missed Guangzhou in 2015), Georgia that played in Kazan 10 years ago is also back. Then it was recognised as not too successful test, however, now the national team reached a semi-final, moreover, was a candidate for playing in the main match giving way to Italy on a penalty shootout only.
In a delegation of 40 Georgian participants in Universiade competitions chaired by the country’s prime minister, water polo players accounted for a quarter and performed more successfully. This needs to be related to the quite obvious improvement of water polo in the country, however, it is often linked with the invitation of foreign players to the national team. Now only ex-Belarusian Artyom Degtyarenko was among “new Georgians” who defended colours of team Azerbaijan at the 1st European Games in Baku since 2015. In general the skeleton of the university team was created as early as 2014 to compete at the U-19 European Championship (Andria Bitadze, Georgy Magrakvelidze, Revaz Imaishvili, Irakly Razmadze). After that, all of them, plus Valiko Dadvani, went on serious internship at European clubs and now they play for Tbilisi’s Dynamo, a regular of the Champions League. And even without foreigners (Dynamo has five, only two of them obtained local citizenship), the university team looked very decently in China.
Germans that arrived with head coach of the national team Milos Sekulic didn’t think a lot about the team. Felipp Benke, Zoran Bojic, Dennis Streletsky who was born in Mishkino city, Russia — all of them are players of the national team, and only Hungary, Italy, Greece and USA didn’t have players of such calibre. Moreover, all these countries made up teams from very famous water polo players. Ágh György, Benedek Baksa, Botond Bobis, Dome Dala — are players of OSC from Budapest, Szolnok, Eger, the Hungarian Championship, a country that has won the U-17 European Championship in Montenegro this year by defeating the hosts in the final, a senior world championship and now it is close to the victory at the Universiade that can easily be characterised as a tournament for second teams.
Surprisingly, Australia that had been stable competing at all Universiades, including Shenzhen in 2011 didn’t come to China. There wasn’t any team from former Yugoslavia, though Serbia is actively involved in developing water polo in China and Asian countries in general.
All roads go to Manis
The next big tournament is scheduled for Turkey’s Manisa where the junior national team of Russia had a training camp. But not necessarily due to official games and sparring matches, Turks could have a look at training done by such a professional as Dmitry Apanasenko. Mania just hosted the women’s junior championship where same Hungary won going ahead of Spain and Greece. If water polo around the world is buzzing, from competition to competition, Russia is in hibernation. Astrakhan’s Dynamo where two serious water polo players came became one of the few to announce news. It is Andrey Balakirev with an experience of competing in championships of Hungary, Romania and Serbia and played his last season at Moscow’s Vostok and Yegor Vasilyev who played for Baltika from Petersburg and Shturm-2002.
KOS-Sintez reminded us about itself thanks to being part of Sinter sports club whose swimmer Nikolay Zuyev has been a two-time medallist of the Russian Cup finishing second in a midley relay and third in a freestyle relay.
Match TV — Kremlin Cup competition that ended in Moscow this weekend is worthy of mentioning. Member of Sintez sports club Nikita Shleikher has won twice there, on platform and a 3-metre springboard while his team mate Maria Polyakova is third in the 3m springboard.