Image Source: Joelle Bekhazi/World Aquatics

Joelle Bekhazi (Above) played 16 years on the Canadian women’s water polo team, competing in almost 600 internationals, including seven world championships, and topped her career with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

“After retiring, you want to be able to still play at that high level. If you love the game as much as I do, you can. I played with these girls for many years and they have that same competitive edge and what better to add the world masters to my already seven world championships?” she said after playing and winning a match on day-four competition in Kumamoto.

Image Source: Tanya Whitlock/World Aquatics

“It’s a different mindset. It is for fun and at the same time everyone is here to win. At the end of the day, on Monday, we have to go to work. So, why not play at the highest level you can without having a full-time water polo job?

“It’s that killer instinct. It’s always going to be there. It never leaves you. You never made it to the Olympics by a taking a back seat.

“I will fight until the last whistle no matter what the score is or if it is round-robin, semis or finals. For me it is always for the love of the game,” Bekhazi said.

Even after Bekhazi left the senior team she still turned out for training in Montreal until her pregnancy became too much to get through the practice.

Image Source: Tanya Whitlock/World Aquatics

“It’s good to be a mom, working and having a different career than sport.”

Bekhazi became pregnant soon after leaving international water polo, but still maintained the desire to compete. Bekhazi points to the fact that her team, the San Diego Shores, has seven women with babies with the captain having hers just six months ago.

Does she think that more women should be playing and attending the World Masters Championships?

“The problem for some is their ego and when they come back. Some say: ‘I will never play again because I will not be as good as I was’. If you love the game, come out and play.

“Playing at a high level brings the level higher. You understand the game and see other ways to look at it. If you truly love the game, don’t stop,” Bekhazi said.

“In the USA, masters water polo is prominent and we try to do that in Canada. There are games and tournaments to play in these countries.”

Image Source: Tanya Whitlock/World Aquatics

On her involvement with the San Diego Shores, Bekhazi said: “We did have one tournament at the start of summer, so we could have cohesive play. I have played with some of them throughout the year, so we are familiar. Sometimes we train with the USA national 19-plus squad, so we are playing with youths.”

On the masters spirit, Bekhazi said: “This is a great group of girls; love their spirit and the way they see water polo. When they asked me to play, I said ‘I’m in’. If you truly love the game, don’t stop. In three months, I played three tournaments and there were four available to play.”

That masters spirit will carry on through Doha 2024 and Singapore 2025.

Postcript: San Diego won the women's 30+ final against Italy's Pro Recco, the leading qualifier, 6-4.