United States of America’s Maddie Musselman and Spain’s Felipe Perrone have been lauded as World Aquatics’ water polo athletes of the year for 2022.
World Aquatics athletes of the year Maddie Musselman (USA) and Felipe Perrone (ESP) received trophies, gowns and a cheque for $US10,000 each for their successes in the year at a Marine Messe B poolside presentation on Friday evening.
Both were world champions from Budapest and both have chequered careers in the sport.
Musselman has been a member of the highly successful USA women’s programme since 2014 and won gold medals at the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games among 20 golds in various international competitions.
In 2022, she was instrumental in USA winning the gold medal at the World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, scoring 20 goals; being named MVP of the final and being named in the Media All Star team.
Musselman underwent surgery later in the year and was back to her best competing for Team USA here in Fukuoka where USA was unseated in its current run as four-time champion, finishing outside the medals for the first time since 2009. She was a member of those four world-champion teams.
“It's very humbling and it was a very pleasant surprise especially for 2022. Reflecting on that year, ending my career at UCLA, going into a summer with the national team after a long period with a new group and winning in Budapest was a really big high for me," Musselman said.
“Unfortunately, after that tournament I got hip surgery, so this past 2022 year has been a lot of ups and downs. A really cool journey for me personally, so it's nice to be honoured for something, obviously personally that I did, but I wouldn't be able to do it without the team and the group of girls I get to train with every single day.”
USA head coach Adam Krikorian said of her accolade: “Deservedly so. I thought she was clearly the best player in the world. Sometimes with awards you aren’t sure if they are going to the right person. Our team won the gold, we were the best team, she ( Maddie) was the best player clearly. I think she is just scratching the surface, to be honest, and I am excited to see what happens going forward.”
Felipe Perrone, 38 this year, is the captain of the stupendous Spanish men’s water polo team and was competing in Fukuoka in an astounding 11th world championships, missing just one edition since Fukuoka 2001. He was probably the only returning athlete from that championship in any of the Aqua disciplines.
Perrone scored three goals in the gold-medal final in Budapest that went to sudden-death penalty shootout, eclipsing Italy 15-14.
The Brazilian-born athlete competed for Spain from 2001 until 2013 before switching to Brazil for the 2016 Olympic Games, returning to Spain from 2018, thus missing the 2017 world championships because of citizenship rules.
He has won innumerable awards and at Fukuoka this year was named in the Media All Star team. Spain had no chance of defending its 2022 crown after Hungary, the eventual winner, squeezed in a buzzer-beating goal in the semifinal. Spain, however, did progress to the dais via a 9-6 victory over Olympic champion Serbia.
Asked about recognition as Athlete of the Year, he said: “To be honest, I'm 100 per cent sure that I wasn't the best athlete, but I think I'm just representing (my country), actually. I think our team and the way that we play, (that) everyone could be the best athlete of the year. So, as I said before, I'm 100 per cent sure that I'm not the best player. But I think I'm representing one way to play the game.”