x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Ratko Rudic aims to ignite Brazilian water polo ascent in Dubai

Rudic and his Brazil side arrive at the Hamdan Sports Complex on Monday for the Fina Water Polo World League Men's Super Final, the first of many stepping stones to the Rio 2016 Olympics.

DUBAI // One of the most decorated coaches in the sport, Ratko Rudic, has set his sights on turning Brazil into a force in water polo, a team who can challenge Europe’s domination of the sport and win a medal at the 2016 Olympics at Rio de Janeiro.

Rudic, who won a silver medal as a player at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, has won 36 medals since becoming a coach in 1984.

His list of successes includes world championships with Yugoslavia (1986), Italy (1994) and Croatia (2007) and four Olympic gold medals: with Yugoslavia in 1984 and 1988, Italy in 1992 and Croatia in 2012. He also has won two World Cups as a coach.

He is aiming to achieve the same kind of success with Brazil as he prepares them with an eye on Rio.

“Water polo is a very difficult sport,” he said. “You need investments and a long-term programme, but we need to move fast now and hope to arrive for the Olympic Games with a very competitive team.”

As he tries to get his team into shape, Rudic believes the Fina Water Polo World League Men’s Super Final, which starts at the Hamdan Sports Complex on Monday with eight of the world’s top teams competing, will provide a strong indication of where his team stands in the water polo hierarchy.

The field includes the two most dominant teams of recent times – defending champions Serbia and the team they beat in the 2013 final, Hungary.

Serbia have won seven of the 12 Super Finals, while Hungary, the defending and three-time world champions, have won gold twice.

Hungary have won nine gold medals in men’s Olympic water polo, while Serbia have won three Olympic golds and four world championships.

Rudic said he believes their domination could be challenged in the near future.

“Some of the non-European teams are very close to the European teams,” he said. “At the last world championships, Australia could have reached the semi-final, but they lost to Croatia in the last second.

“The United States have a young team and they are looking very good. They will get stronger with every competition.

“We also have got some very good players and I expect that, maybe not this year but from next year, we will be a great concern for the best European teams. We will try to make sure water polo is not dominated by just European teams.”

The eight teams are divided into two groups, with Brazil in Group A with Serbia, China and 2009 champions Montenegro, while Hungary, the United States, Australia and Canada form Group B.

Matches start at 2.30pm on all six days, with the final scheduled for 6.30pm on Saturday.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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