Montreal 2014, Water Polo: "We are here for the camaraderie and love of the game!"
Today August 2 successfully concluded the men's and women's water polo competitions at the 15th FINA World Masters Championships, where a total 950 players, representing 15 countries and more than 60 clubs, took part. It was a hot Saturday afternoon at the Parc Jean-Drapeau's aquatic complex with enthusiastic cheering from the crowds in the stands as finals for men and women were underway.
After an intense bronze-medal match in the men's 50+ age group, which they won, James Bates and Eugene Dafoe from the Kaos club (USA) shared their impressions, still panting: "That's the best we've done here," said Dafoe. Does that mean we get better with age? "I guess so!" they both replied, laughing.
The two friends, who met seven years ago and have attended four Masters Worlds, have played water polo since college. "We're a pick-up team, a bunch of individuals that came together to play water polo," said Bates. There are no less than eight different U.S. states represented in the team. "It's truly a unique team!"
"Going to competitions gives us the opportunity to play together and work on our strategy of play," added Bates.
"There's no drop-off in our play. We keep the same intensity and we don't have a tough guy to rely on. We're rather interchangeable," he explained.
Bronze medallists in the 50+ category, the Kaos club (USA) - credit: Delphine Schmutz/FINA
For Dafoe, the reason behind keeping throwing the ball is a no-brainer: "I like being fit, and the camaraderie among players and with other teams is really unique."
The toughest challenge with age, Bates said, is recovery: "If we get injured, it takes a lot longer to come back."
Asked why one would attend Masters Worlds, Dafoe said: "The most enjoyable part is the camaraderie and going to new places. It's my first time in Montreal, I really like the place and the venue!"
Different age group, different country, but rather same feelings. Alessandro Checchinato and Andre Araujo from Brazilian club Masters Old Fellows are fresh from their gold-medal winning performance in the 35+ age group against a fellow country club.
"We clearly came here to win," said Araujo, who's taking part in his third FINA Masters Worlds in a row.
"This is a gorgeous city, the organisation is great, the people are welcoming, we love it!" added Checchinato.
Gold Medal emotions for the Masters Old Fellows (BRA) in the 35+ category - credit: Delphine Schmutz/FINA
"It's great to see the worldwide community of water polo getting together and the younger teams playing."
"The Masters Worlds have like two arms: on one side, it's a community engagement and on the other, high-level performance," explained Checchinato.
The team trains on a regular basis, three times a week, every weekend and during holidays. 20 percent of the team leaves abroad.
Araujo gained experience while playing in the United States, "bringing expertise within the team," explained Checchinato.
On the FINA Masters Worlds being held together with the FINA World Championships from next year on, Checchinato said, excited: "The quality of the venue and facilities will certainly improve and it will be great to have the elite players right next to us."
Among the competing teams, many local clubs. One of them, Godzilla, learned lessons from their bronze-medal match loss in the 30+ age group against the Astana club from Kazakhstan.
The Godzilla club from Canada, waiting for their turn to play for bronze in the 30+ category - credit: Delphine Schmutz/FINA
Alex Pratt and Marin Therien, both in their early 30s, have spent 25 years in the sport.
"We had a big goal coming here, we wanted to win. We had good play-off games, so it's a good performance for a first FINA World Masters," said Pratt.
"We train two times a week but with those having a family, it's a challenge. Moreover, some of the players come from far to train," he added.
"I come here for the love of the sport and because I love to compete," said Therien. "I hope to see myself one day like the players in the 50+ and 60+ categories, I think this is great!"