CHICAGO (AP) – Right after the Summer Olympics, Adam Krikorian was done. Tired of coaching the US women’s water polo team during a pandemic, he thought maybe it was time to try something new.
Roughly two months after Tokyo, long after the glow of a third straight gold had worn off, Krikorian was still in one spot. Then, as he considered what had gone well in the previous Olympic cycle, everything started to change.
“Over the months, I became more and more passionate and enthusiastic about trying to make these improvements,” Krikorian told the AP in a phone interview, “to make the experience better for myself and for everyone around me. “
This is how he came out of the exhaustion he felt after the United States beat Spain 14-5 in the Tokyo final from August 7 through Tuesday, when USA Water Polo announced. that Krikorian and men’s coach Dejan Udovicic would stay until the 2024 Olympics.
Continuity at the top – far from a given after the challenges heading into this year’s Games – is a blow to every program with Paris on the horizon. As the women aim for an unprecedented fourth consecutive title, the American men are looking to build on a sixth place finish this year.
“I think there are a lot of good years in front of the national team,” Udovicic said.
Udovicic, 51, was hired in 2013 after coaching Serbia for bronze at the London Olympics. The United States stumbled in Rio, with a 2-3 record and a 10th place finish, but showed signs of growth in Tokyo. Led by Ben Hallock and aided by a draw, the Americans reached the quarter-finals before being knocked out of the medal race with a 12-8 loss to Spain.
Much of the US roster has played for club teams in Europe for most of their training for this year’s Olympics, instead of spending more time together as the national team. It was a departure from past practice – one Udovicic plans to continue.
“I expect that after the 2022 varsity season ends, we’ll have almost a full roster outside of the United States,” Udovicic said.
Krikorian, 47, played at UCLA and coached the Bruins’ men’s and women’s teams before being hired to coach the United States in March 2009.
With Krikorian at the helm, the United States became a dominant force. After losing 10-9 to Hungary in a group match in their first loss at the Olympics since the 2008 final, the United States have won four straight games with a combined score of 63-26. He has a 174-6 record over the past five years.
No team, male or female, has ever won four consecutive water polo titles at the Games. But Krikorian said that had not been a factor in his decision to return. The shortened Olympic cycle was part of his thinking process, but the biggest draw at this point may well be the chance to lay the groundwork for 2028 – and, perhaps, possibly, America’s next coach.
“I will definitely be focusing on Paris, but also on what we need to do now to help identify and help develop the next athletes and coaches who can perform at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles,” Krikorian said. noted.
Krikorian also plans to spend more time at his Southern California home with his family during this cycle, a stipend given by USA Water Polo to help him stay put. He will likely follow a similar plan with his veteran players, giving them more time before returning to training with the national team.
While declining to speculate on who might come back in 2024, Krikorian said he expected “decent revenue.”
“I think the Paris team will probably be very different and, if I had to guess, will have a lot more difficulty in this process than the last team,” he said. “And I’m looking forward to that. I can’t wait to maybe be on the other end of the phone and try to redevelop this team and this program.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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