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The National Spanish men water polo team had qualified for the European Championships in Budapest 2014, on the 1st of March, in El Sorrell swimming pools(Barcelona).

Spanish water polo team had already defeated the Ukraine team in the away game of the play-off, with a decisive result: 5-17. And so, the return game should not be complicated. Rather it should be a last step to seal the Europeans’ classification.

The Spanish team worked hard at the CAR Sant Cugat’s facilities to prepare the match, with the incorporation of six new players in the group .

During the game, Spain was superior throughout the match, and so the Ukrainian team had no choice. When the time ran out, the score was 25-6, an overwhelming victory for Spain.

Moreover, when Gaby Hernandez saw how the match was developing,  he didn’t doubt about giving minutes to the beginners. It was after the first quarter (4-0 ) , when Hernandez finally decided take the less common players to the swimming pool.

Among them was Alejandro Bustos, a CN Canoe player . The young man, who has just 16 years , was convened with the absolute for his first time, and during the match he even had debuted as a scorer.

Debut

Bustos, prepared the game in the CAR  Sant Cugat , with the remainder of the National team. He declared to BIWPA: “training with these boys was very special . They are my idols, and train with them it’s something that every kid dreams of when he’s getting started.”

“All the players are great people , both in and out of the water . It was my first time with Gaby Hernandez and personally I think it is very good coach, but above all, he’s very close to his players, “ said Bustos.

He also told us about the feelings before the game, which were particularly intense : “I felt strange, I felt like it was my first water polo match . But once I jumped into the water I forgot all of that, and I just dedicated myself to play and try to help the team as much as I could . “

Alejandro Bustos , feels ‘ very satisfied ‘ for fulfilling the Europeans objective and he adds that it ‘is always an honor to play with Spain ‘ .

About the national Spanish team call, Bustos don’t want to anticipate events: “the daily work and the coach will decide . As far as I am concerned, I’ll still preserve the drive that moves me in this sport, and I will be working hard to represent my country.

BIWPA’s team wants to congratulate him, as all of the national team players and coach, Gaby Hernandez for qualifying for the Europeans Budapest 2014. Congratulations to all of you guys!

Water polo

WP Spanish Team

At the beginning, I thought to talk about water polo as a sport with ephemeral success or about less social and media impact, but I am not going to appeal or complain for that, because I think this feeling should be put it behind. The point is that we are stronger because we are different, unique, and besides, we’re good. We cannot talk about minority sport attending the successful results (not only in recent seasons, but also past 2 decades), the outburst of women’s water polo, the number of clubs competing at lower levels and their technical improvement, the amazing coaching, etc. Of course we can improve more than that but this is not our feeling, at least in Catalonia where we work to be better every single day. We do things to go forward, not backwards.

If we take a look back, we find a golden 2013 year in terms of results, especially the female team: April 27th, CN Sabadell female proclaimed European Clubs Champion in Hungary, after a hellish environment in semifinals. On August 2nd, in Bernat Picornell pools in Barcelona, the Spanish Women National Team was, for the first time ever, World Champion, amid a frenzied crowd. The 25th of the same month, in Volos, Greece, the Spanish Juniors made silver medal in the World U20. And, to finish the round, the youngest, the sub17, 2 weeks later, on September 8th, made silver medal in Europe sub17 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Shortly and concisely speaking, the women’s water polo season has been spectacular. And if you take a look a little further back in time, we will see that this success is the result of a really hard work. Female silver medal in the London Olympics 2012, Female World Junior Champion in Trieste (Italy), and the silver medal the male Junior team in Greece in 2011. In the summer, the female sub17 made ​​3rd Europe in Madrid, and the male sub17 made also 3rd in Rijeka (Croatia), plus of the 1st European Cup Women won by CN Sabadell. I’ll throw no further to the head, but enough has been achieved in terms of medals and finals and semifinals played. Besides, I only speak about international results, because nationwide successes are indisputable for our water polo. And I speak for all water polo without recognizing gender or age.

Ferran Plana

Ferran in Portugalete 2014

My point of view is not to compare water polo with other sports, because everyone is working to their fullest potential in terms of the (human and material) resources available, but if we look at other sports in our country, it seems difficult to find any other with same success in different categories and genres (I quote only basketball, year after year busting all medalists in men and women at all ages. BRAVO for them!).

These memories of recent times do nothing more than highlighting the results and translate the many, many hours of work and volume of desire and enthusiasm invested in our sport, water polo, both the players, the technical staff and many other people (to say the least, they do absolutely everything) that are responsible for implementing sports programs for clubs and federations.

The Spanish level has also risen, as well as the number of clubs and the overall development of water polo, but the Catalan level (which is actually the one I have more knowledge of)
has exponentially increased in recent years in terms of players, equipment, and technical structure.  A huge evolution.

A clear example of that was what happened on October 6th, coinciding with the Catalan Cup of the National League, where 43 catalan women water polo players, were rewarded for their amazing season 2012-2013 (yes!, you read well, 43!) for having been international medalists in the last season, on top of the 5 technicians who were part of the successful staffs (both in National teams and clubs). All these awards are just the tip of the spear of a sport in many places regarded as a minority, but that we consider different and unique, and that in Catalonia is very powerful and has a very good health at all ages and genders. And as far as I know,water polo is also spreading widely outside Catalonia (Basque Country, Navarra, Zaragoza and Sevilla, to cite clear examples), and scramble every day to grow in every way and without thinking whether they are better, lower or equal: they work hard. And we do too.

However, the economic situation is very, very tough. Clubs think how to get through their low incomes without dropping their investment, in my opinion, in the most important thing, the lower categories and the formation of new young players. On the other hand, the water polo Federation tries to fit this technical needs with the economic situation of the clubs (short distance commuting, short tournaments, intensification of the weekends…). Do not forget that there is always the main idea that we are “professionals” of water polo (this expression does not go with work hours, salary, etc, but it goes with the availability that each of us has). Finally this is a sport, a right and a pleasure. Just a few of us have the privilege of educating through sport.

Water polo

Ferran Plana-spanish seleccion U18

We would like to go out a lot more in the media, but don’t be naive … our country (Spain or Catalonia; I will not go into this debate) has no sports culture generally speaking. In fact, it just has a soccer culture! And the rest goes behind, because what people read, watch and talk about is soccer, sometimes about basketball and of course about Alonso and Nadal. This is it! The rest has to “compete” to appear rarely in the media. And if we briefly show up (due tonational and international events) it means that we are doing well, very well. Even when instantly the society forgets our effort, we keep working, just to reappear again, most of the times thanks to very engaged fans following our victories and showing how self-sacrificing this sport is. If during the season, “we catch” any article, any document, any cuts in a sports or news program, this is more than welcome! And believe me, on a smaller scale so many clubs, federations, associations, coaches and players have entered in the 2.0 age: Twitter, Facebook, profiles, blogs, web pages... with the main purpose to show up and to spread among all of us the information that we want. Although slowly, for sure these new tools are approaching to us to the rest of the world. 

To finish with, I hope that I have achieved my goal with these lines: leave the banners and prejudices that see us as a minority sport. No excuses and worries anymore, we want solutions. Instead of complaining, we should change and fit in. The only way is to work hardly, as other minority sports do. This is the only philosophy and way: feeling completely full and confident, so that step by step, we gradually achieve the same vision of those who watch us from “outside “.

Taking advantage Clara Espar has spent the Christmas holiday with his family in Barcelona, ​​BIWPA have wanted to know how is her new life in US.

Clara Espar Llaquet was born in Barcelona 19 years ago, in a very athletic family. Her dad was a coach for the FC Barcelona Handball team and her mum is a triathlete and ultrarunner.

Clara plays with the Spanish National Team. She won the silver medal in the last World Junior Championship in Volos ( Greece, August 2013). Now she is studying “Hospitality, Turism and Business” at San Jose State University and she plays for the “Spartans”, the university waterpolo team.

What do you emphasize in your sport career? 

I would say studying and playing at CAR with other young girls that became my friends and my teammates at the same time. We grew up there and trained hard improving our skills that later on gave us the chance to play in the Spanish national league.

Jugadora-water-polo-EEUU

Clara Espar SJSU

Why did you decide to go to the US? 

I liked the american lifestyle since I was a child and I have always dreamed to go and live there. A year ago I had a chance, but I was doubting, finally I took  the decision to change my life.

Did it take long to get used to the American lifestyle?

 It was easy for me. California is pretty similar to Europe ( Barcelona) and I didn’t have any problem, except the food. I got used to it at the end, but it had its consequences, (haha).

Explain your daily routine

We train from 6 to 9am and in the afternoon we go to the gym from 6 to 8pm to do some weights. During the first semester we are not allowed to train more hours than the ones stablished by the NCAA. However, on the second semester we have two preseason weeks, which we call hell weeks, and we train more than 5 hours per day.

Did you play any games during the first semester? 

I played an alumni game which means that we played against ex-players from my university. We also played a tournament in Stanford.

Is the training system very different from the Spanish one?

When we train it is very strict and serious. We sometimes train without the coach (because we do voluntary practice in order not to train more than the permitted hours). Americans are usually very hard-working. I don’t know if it is because they like what they do, but at least it seems so. They work hard and they don’t complain.

Would you recommend your experience to other water polo players? 

Of course. The waterpolo level in the US is high. The first year can be tough because of the language but it helps you to become more mature and you learn lots of things, not only in terms of sport but also academically and personally.

How is the competition over there? 

I have played just one tournament but I can say that the competition is very intense. All the games are close. Something I would mention is that in respect to our american teammates, we usually have more field vision and we have better technique. Their games are usually more physical and tactical; their plays are very definite in their system.

What is your valuation of the 4 years that you have spent in the High Performance Center (CAR)? 

Personally it has been a great experience and athletically it has given a lot to me as well. It was probably the principal knowledge source during the first three years because we had to be in the same level as the older players. And our last year, it helped us to become a part in our clubs senior team.

Would you like to live in the US? 

I really don’t know. I haven’t decided yet.

What do you miss the most while you are in the US?

My family, my friends, my club and home’s food. Sometimes I also miss training a bit later.

Finally, would you like to highlight anything?

I would like to say that going to the US to play and study is an experience that anybody should try if they get the chance. Not just because you improve the language, but also because you learn from a different culture, new lifestyle,new training methods that enriches you as an athlete and you meet new people.

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