It was a flow, for eight consecutive years. Maybe it was a once-in-a-lifetime story. From 2012-2020 nobody could beat them. What was the USA women’s water polo secret?

Image Source: The start to Team USA's dynastic water polo run: the London 2012 Olympic Games. Coach Adam Krikorian and team celebrate after winning the Women's Water Polo Gold Medal match in London, England (Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

“The teams of the past were unique, I’m not sure if you ever going to find a team as good as the one that participated in Rio and Tokyo,” Krikorian said.

But everything is changing, they are looking for new challenges: “New players, new team. We are in a position where the more experienced players have obviously proven themselves on an international level for many years, and they still have the confidence to perform at a very high level. Their challenge is to stay healthy and fresh.

Image Source: USA's Tara Prentice competes with the Hungarian defence during the Women's 5th-6th play off match at the World Aquatics Championships - Fukuoka 2023 (Clive Rose/Getty Images)

On the coach's side, we try to keep our experienced players healthy while bringing this young group up to the intensity that is required to play at the highest level. It’s probably one thing I have never experienced since 2009.”

Team USA Did Not Lose a Single Match Between 2014 and 2021. How did you and the team do this?

Image Source: USA v Hungary for World Championships gold in Budapest, Hungary at the 2022 Worlds (Aniko Kovacs/World Aquatics)

“We won every major event that was between 2014 and 2022, and then Hungary beat us at the Olympics in Tokyo,” Krikorian reminisced. “When you have eight of these successful years you cannot pick just one reason behind it. To have that consistency, there needs to be a multitude of things that we have done well to have that success. I think that’s the case.

“We were a great team with players who are (still) extremely competitive. That time they had a unique will to win, and a competitive edge that just pushed them beyond and over the limits.

“I also think of just a quarter of selflessness where literally every single person put the team above themselves in every game, in every training. When you have talent, selflessness and competitive power, you know those three things are a great start to achieve something incredible.”

Shorter Olympics Cycle – Condensed Opportunity

Image Source: Kaleigh Gilchrist of Team United States poses with her gold medal after the Women's Gold Medal match between Spain and the United States at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

New, young players are coming – six players were born in or after 2000 in the USA women’s water polo team in Fukuoka.

“It’s not hard to fit them into the team. Obviously, it’s a challenge.  I guess I should not say it is not hard, they are certainly accepted by the team, the group is very welcoming, and the environment and the culture that we have created a positive one so in that sense, it is easy,” noted Krikorian. “But the challenging thing for them is that there is a shorter runway this time.”

“It’s not four full years between the two Olympics, so we have a shorter period, which is not a favour for us. But anytime a young athlete comes to this situation, and you represent the USA women's water polo team there are positives and negatives to it.

Image Source: Team USA at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (Hiroyuki Nakamura/World Aquatics)

“There’s a certain high level of expectation and standard that pushes you to be better and reach your very best, but at the same time, it can be difficult to manage the expectations that come along with being a part of the national team and its heritage.

“And lastly, as a challenge for our team and for young players is to play with their role models, playing with their idols, like people they looked up to, and as fun as it is, it can put pressure.”

New World Aquatics Championships, New Hopes

Image Source: Team USA head coach Adam Krikorian looks on during the Women's Water Polo Classification 5-8 match between the United States and Canada in Fukuoka, Japan (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

"We will be a different team in Doha than in Fukuoka. We hope that we have grown, learnt from the past, improved our skills, our cohesion and our purpose as a team is clearer and more determined,” Krikorian said.  “We may change some of the players but it’s yet to be determined. We are trying to be better, woring hard for that. This is why we are in the Netherlands, last week we were in Italy, to try to find a better idea of who we are as a team.”

‘We Want to Win Every Single Tournament’

Image Source: Members of Team United States show the emotions of sport during the World Aquatics Championships - Fukuoka 2023 (Clive Rose/Getty Images)

“I’m not going to say we do not want to win, we do want to win, every team wants to win and stand on the podium,” Krikorian said.  “But for us, what is going to be the most important is learning and getting better and Doha is really the final test for all the teams, a major tournament before the Olympics.

“It is a great trial run of the Olympic games, to be able to play among the best teams in the world. To be able to play in an environment that a World Championships means, with all the pressure that everyone feels, the excitement, the energy.

“We can control our effort, our attitude and our focus, and we try to be the best version of ourselves. If we stand on the podium, it’s great, and if not, that’s ok, this is part of the journey of the water polo.”