Huge success of the BIWPA ambassadors in Budapest


We're interviewing Anni Espar and Adrià Delgado, gold and silver medalists at the Budapest European Championships

Anni Espar and Adrià Delgado with their medals from Budapest
Anni Espar and Adrià Delgado with their medals from Budapest

Anni Espar, gold medalist

In her third year as a BIWPA ambassador, Anni Espar clinched her second European gold in Budapest. Next challenge, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

- The Spain women's national team never gets tired of winning. What's the secret?

Our key to success is hard work and confidence in what we are doing. Sometimes you don't win but the effort and sacrifice is the same and not for that reason we must stop believing that things will turn out right. If things are done well and with enthusiasm, the reward ends up coming. 7 podiums in 8 years is not bad, right?

- Gold medal in the World Championships in Barcelona, ​​now another European gold in Budapest... only the Olympic gold is missing?

Of course! It is very exciting to be world and European champion but becoming Olympic champion is the dream of any athlete, and we are going for it.

- Do you think that having a more competitive local league has been positive for the national team?

Definitely. In fact, it was one of the reasons why I left Sabadell. The league is better if the teams have a similar level. I enjoy competing when the games are tight, and this is also good for the fans because they have a better time watching us. And it's also benefitial for Spanish water polo in general. 

The Spain women's water polo national team, 2020 European champion
The Spain women's water polo national team, 2020 European champion

- Dutch, Russian... All these players seem bigger, but you were able to beat them. How did you manage?

They might be bigger and taller, but that doesn't mean that they are stronger or physically better prepared than us. We did a preparation camp in Sierra Nevada with a lot of fitness training that was very important in our physical condition. Another fundamental part of competing against players that look stronger is knowing how to use your other weapons correctly (speed, agility, technique, etc.).

- Do you think the new rules have been favorable for Spanish water polo in general?

Taking into account the good results of both women's and men's national teams, I would say yes. In the end, in a situation like this, the important thing is to know how to adapt and we have done it.

- How do you see the level of women's water polo in Spain and, specifically in Barcelona?

I think that the level has improved a lot in the past years both in Barcelona and the rest of Spain. The best way to progress is to get more people practicing our sport. Therefore, our goal is to spread passion for water polo and get more boys and girls that want to try this amazing sport.

- Spanish water polo is being successful not only with the senior teams, but also with the youth age groups. Why do you think is that?

I believe that the success is due to the good work of the clubs, the high performance centers and the good results of the national teams. The role of clubs that are supporting water polo and the federation's effort in spreading and supporting all organizations is essential.

Adrià Delgado, debut and silver medalist

This is the first season of Adri Delgado as a BIWPA ambassador. Delgado came back to Spain last season and after a great first campaign he made it to the national team. First big championship with Spain, and first medal for Adri.   

Adrià Delgado in action in the quarter finals against Serbia
Adrià Delgado in action in the quarter finals against Serbia

- Do you feel you won a silver or lost a gold?

We won a very hard-fought silver medal. It is true that the way we lost was tough, but as the days go by, we realized that we did an exceptional championship, beating very strong teams such as Serbia or Croatia. We also managed to compete both games against Hungary and in the final penalties are always a lottery. 

It is the third time that Spain stays at the gates of gold, but we are doing a sensational job and we are earning the respect of the rest of the teams.

- How do you feel about being able to enter a team that already had a winning dynamic with the medals in Barcelona and Gwangju?

When you see that a team is performing well, you don't think the coach will make a lot of changes, but David decided to introduce a couple of new players and the truth is that my integration to the team was very easy. My role was clear from the beginning and I think this is one of the keys of the team. We all know what we have to do at all times and we play as a team. 

- What was the hardest part of all the preparation?

It was a "short" preparation but long at the same time. We did ten days of preparation in Portugal focusing more on the tactical part . When we returned to the high performance center (CAR) in Sant Cugat we had four intense triple sessions and we also trained with Serbia. We were all feeling physically very strong at the end. 

Since we cannot compete with weight, height or shoot, I think the physical condition and intensity of the team was key to exhaust our opponents in the last stage of the game.  

- You decided to take penalties in the shootouts against Serbia in the quarterfinals and against Hungary in the final. Was it a hard decision to make?

I consider penalties one of the few things that cannot be trained. The pressure from the public or a tight result, the nerves... are things that cannot be trained. I think players who are more convinced to score have to take the penalty kicks in a shootout, rather than the best shooters. 

Against Serbia, David told me to take one of the penalties and I didn't think it twice. In the final I saw that we would be the same five takers and I quickly started to mentalize and think where to shoot. Everyone can miss a penalty, it was very unfair to lose like this. But in the end only those who have the courage to take a penalty miss them. 

- What's your role in the team?

When you are called up to play for a consolidated national team you have to stick to the role that the coach marks you, mostly focusing on defence. In attack, with such skilled players, I my main objective was to take advantage of the opportunities that I had. 

The players have been together for a long time, most of them are part of the same club (Barceloneta) and the truth is that they made it very easy for me to join them.

- Do you see yourself going to your second Olympic games, this time with Spain?

There's still a long way until the Olympic Games. It has been one of my goals for a long time, but there is still a very long way to go. Now I have to focus on my club and also there's a World League game coming up. 

- The truth is that you see the rivals that you managed to win and physically they seem more powerful. What was the key?

Maybe we are not as tall as the Hungarians, we do not have the technique of the Serbians and we do not play like the Croatians, but by our physiognomy and our style we can take our rivals to their physical limit. When we accomplish this, it becomes very difficult for the opponent to score a goal. The defence has also been key, and our goalkeeper Dani has been immense.

Do you think that the new rules benefited you?

I think the new rules are benefitial for teams and players like us, with more mobility and dynamism. The new rules allow a more dynamic type of play and I think we have taken advantage of that. 

Three silver medals in a row (European, World Championships and European). Can we say that Spain is back at the top to stay?

Three podiums in a row is historic, especially after a long period far from the medals. Being again at the top and earning the respect of the other teams again is very positive. But the important thing rather than reaching the top is to stay. And that's our next challenge. 

How is the current situation in Spanish water polo?

Thanks to new sponsors and players coming from other countries our league has become more competitive, although Barceloneta is still at another level. We will keep working to get closer to them.

- Spanish water polo is being successful not only with the senior teams, but also with the youth age groups. Why do you think is that?

We are fortunate to have the amazing facilities of the high performance center CAR of Sant Cugat, with athletes who are training in high-quality programs during all year. We also have very good coaches with methodologies that offer positive results. In my opinion, showing up to practice every day and being tenacious are two of the most important keys to success.