© Gertjan Kooij / Beeldboot 11 May Group draw and importance of World League in Olympic year By: Tim Hartog Men, Rio 2016 blog After the end of the pre-Olympic tournament last 4 places of the Olympic Games were assigned to Hungary, Spain, Italy and France. What was also decided were the 2 groups of 6 national teams each for the Olympics in Rio 2016 (see Table A below), out of which the first 4 will qualify for the quarterfinals. Table A: Group A Group B Serbia Croatia Greece Montenegro Australia USA Hungary Italy Brazil Spain Japan France From this moment on, all athletes and water polo fans have started - as it often happens in all sports - to form opinions on which teams they believe will be the ones qualified for the next rounds. I honestly do not remember that in the last Olympics there was such a balance among the teams, therefore making it so difficult to form an opinion. We should obviously leave Serbia out of the equation, because I believe that the latest results place them as clear front-runner. I must say that after the draw, me and many other players have begun to see much closer the moment when we will be in the water participating in this special moment in our careers. The same goes for the families and fans; an interesting fact is that after the draw was made, I have been approached by many more people from all countries asking for more information about Rio. The whole Brazilian team including myself had great expectations regarding the draw. When you are not one of the strongest teams, the draw ends up having great importance in terms of your chances of achieving the goals. Its only when you see which teams are taking part and how they are paired that you realize that every match in the Olympics will be a final. As Spanish would say “es lo que hay” - thats’s what there is! I personally had a very big wish regarding this draw, and it was not to have Spain in our group. Although in theory when you play you should not care who you face in the water, I prefer not to play against colleagues with whom I shared many special moments during 9 years as part of the Spanish national team, including the participation in two Olympic Games. This is a typical situation in which no matter how hard you try to fight it off, it ends up making you nervous and creating an uncomfortable tension. The truth is that sooner or later I will have to face it. Although I would much more prefer if it does not happens during these Olympic games. Importance of the Waterpolo World League in the Olympic year The 4th of May the final of the Croatian championship fortunately finished ( it could have lasted two more games!!!!!) and now, less than 1 month until the Final Six of the Champions League, I am embarking for Japan. There I will play in the qualifying round of the World League, in which only the non-Europeans countries participate, and with this in mind I wanted to share some interesting data (see table B): Table B: WL 2004 OG 2004 WL 2008 OG 2008 WL 2012 OG 2012 1 Hungary Hungary Serbia Hungary Croatia Croatia 2 Serbia and Montenegro Serbia and Montenegro USA USA Spain Italy 3 Greece Russia Australia Serbia Italy Serbia OG: Olympic Games WL: World League As you can see, there is a clear relation between the results in the Olympics with the results in the World League of the Olympic year. This is why I think that qualifying for the finals of the World League is especially important this year. It will be one of the toughest championships: matches are played each day and we have had no time to prepare for a competition of such high physical demands. I have had an appendicitis surgery one and a half months ago, and for me this is an opportunity to pick up the pace of play, as it has not been easy to come back in the final matches of the Croatian championship after one month without being able to train normally. Maybe Slobodan Soro will finally be able to join us. If he eventually does, it would be the first competition which we would play with the team that will represent Brazil at the Olympic Games. I hope to bring some good news in the next post.