U.S. stands between men’s water polo team and Rio...
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Jul 06, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

U.S. stands between men’s water polo team and Rio Olympics

The winner of the eight-country Pan Am tournament that starts Tuesday gains an automatic berth in the 2016 Summer Games

OurWindsor.Ca

There is a no more clearly defined goal in all the Pan Am Games than the one being chased by the Canadian men’s water polo team.

Win and you’re in.

The winner of the eight-country tournament that kicks off the Games starting Tuesday at the Markham aquatic centre gains an automatic berth in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

A simple task that is oh, so difficult.

Canada goes into the tournament — its opening game is 6 p.m. against Brazil — a legitimate medal contender but chasing a monolith in the race for the Rio berth.

With so much at stake, any advantage to be gained is fair.

“If we’re playing a team like U.S.A or Brazil, expect some punches, expect some hits and grabs, anything that will give you a competitive advantage,” Canadian veteran Constantine Kudaba told the Canadian Press earlier this month. “If you’re playing another team in a random tournament, you know when to calm down and play the skill of water polo. But at the Pan Am Games in Toronto, it’s going to be a real battle.”

The United States, the gold medallists at the 2011 Pan Ams in Guadalajara, Mexico, ahead of the silver medallist Canadians, present the big stumbling block to the hosts.

The Americans have won the last four Pan Am gold medals and finished eighth at the 2012 London Olympics, the highest-ranked team among Pan Am nations.

The Canadian men finished 11th at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, sixth in the 2014 world league and 10th at the 2013 aquatic worlds.

The water polo tournaments – the women also begin Tuesday — are being started before the Pan Am Games begin to avoid scheduling problems with the world aquatic championships that start July 24 in Russia.

The Canadian women, who finished second to the U.S. four years ago, play three Group B games in as many nights starting Tuesday against Brazil.

The men conclude their pool play against Venezuela on Thursday and Mexico on Saturday.

Toronto Star

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