We´ve talked with Anni Espar, professional water polo player and BIWPA ambassador. Good read for all water polo lovers!
What memories do you have of your formative years in the CE Mediterrani?
I started there since I was a baby, combining water polo and swimming. They were my first years and I took the opportunity they have given to me as a player of my first team.
In 2009 you took your first step in CN Sabadell
It was the opportunity to continue growing. Sometimes you have to make these changes. I thought I did not want to be stagnate and this was a way to learn from other players, coaches, club … it’s the same vision I had when I left for the United States.
Certainly crossing the Atlantic was your great personal commitment
It was a difficult decision to leave everything behind and embark on this adventure. I spoke to Anna Pardo and the truth is that I was really excited. Further, the full scholarship that I was offered to study there was also very important when making the decision. It was a year in which I had time for everything.
How do you assess the possibility to combine studies and sport at the highest level?
It is a wonder. I lived five minutes from the training facilities and campus. I would use a bike. 6;00 to 8:00 in the morning training, after class train, and then the same in the afternoon. The facilities you use are immense. You only worry about training and studying.
What do you like most European or American system?
Is different. The truth is that I wish we could have such large sports complexes like in the United States and it was so easy to have it all so close. Still, I must confess that in that sense, BIWPA is doing a great job focusing on the possibility of combining education and sport for athletes who can not access the High Performance Centers in their respective countries.
Is a college education more valuable in America if you are an athlete?
Being honest it does not have the same value. In America if you’ve been an athlete you have more recognition and value companies. In job interviews, the sporting aspect often plays an important role.
Why most Spanish players and players who leave the United States are girls?
The scholarships are divided into male and female. The same money in all sports. As in football a lot of money for the guys goes, in other sports there is more diversity, something that would take advantage of other sports such as basketball or water polo. The university would also be interested in foreign players to give a plus of competitiveness.
To close your stage in the United States … what does it mean to be a NCAA Champion?
For me it was something to feel proud of. At my university it meant to be very much a USC Trojan. This was instilled in me since I understood the rivalry with UCLA, Stanford … create a special bond with the University. So you can imagine the importance that is given to this title, I had a teammate who was an Olympic champion and for her it was more important to win the NCAA than the Olympic Games. Obviously I do not share that view, but I give it a lot of value. When I won the NCAA I remembered what Anna Pardo said, “You win an NCAA ring and check again”, and I did (laughs).
With the selection you have also had some great moments. What is the best remember?
I think there are two. When we qualified for the final of the 2012 Summer Olympics as were World Champions in Barcelona 2013 before all our people. I must say that losing an Olympic final was very sad but this year, I hope to try to get me a thorn for four years.
Anyway, following recent events (World and European) you have us spoiled with victory … What lies ahead for the Preloympic qualifiers?
It is true that they have not been our best competition, I still think we’ve been there, especially in the European. We have fought to the end. We are calm about our game but it is true that in terms of results, other teams also compete. We will qualify for the Olympic qualifiers and the Olympic Games we will not go on vacation. If we play well we will have possibilities.
Speaking of BIWPA, from the beginning you have been involved in the project …
They are doing a great job for the water polo and at the worldwide level. Training in the CAR of Sant Cugat is priceless. The food is good and the ability to enjoy other athletes, especially for boys and girls aged 14-15 is a very nice experience. The campus offers you the opportunity to improve your technique with good coaches, if they continue doing this work in a few years they will have more impact. The Academy has had several players around the world and seeing it from outside, if I had the opportunity to play in another country to continue studying, it would be a dream come true. A wonderful experience. In addition, BIWPA also manages other foreign teams to come to Barcelona to compete with other competing teams. Surely BIWPA will grow in the coming years.