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16th FINA World Championships

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Irek Zinnurov: At the FINA Worlds parents approach me and ask what water polo school they can enroll their kids in

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06.08.2015, 11:20 Sport
Famous Russian water polo player and Kazan 2015 Ambassador, Irek Zinnurov, who also serves as a director of the water polo tournament at the 16th FINA World Championships, sat down for an interview with the Press Office of the Kazan 2015 Organising Committee and shared his impression of the Championships and expressed his expert opinion regarding the level of participating teams.

– The Championships are practically half way through, what can you say about the level of the water polo tournament’s delivery?

– If not to speak of the Russian national squads' results, the Championships are being delivered to a very high standard. I’ve talked to a FINA technical delegate today and he admitted that he happened to work in Barcelona, Shanghai, Madrid and other cities where world championships water polo matches were hosted but here in Kazan the preparation and delivery of competitions seems to outshine previous tournaments. And it is not my personal point of view but an opinion of an unbiased and rather competent person.

– Do you think that the fact that the world championships water polo tournament is hosted in Kazan will give an impulse to the development of water polo in Russia, in Tatarstan?

– It definitely has to! I mean the 2013 Summer Universiade left behind rich tangible and intangible legacy, such as sports facilities and especially people who were inspired to start doing sports.

– Apart from working as a director of the water polo tournament for the FINA World Championships, your full-time employment is coaching a junior water polo team. Should we expect more children to enroll in sports schools after the Championships end?

– To be honest, here at the tournament many parents approach me and ask the same question: “What water polo school can I enroll my kid in?” With the Championships still going on, Kazan citizens get more and more interested in water polo. Let’s hope that their interest will last.

– Let’s talk about the water polo tournament a bit. Which national team surprised you most?

– The Greek national team was a real surprise for me if we speak about the men’s matches. Even though they did not make it into the semis, they played a wonderful game. The American national team, despite being quite young (all the players were born in 1995/1996), impressed me as well. As for some other teams, they showed a predictably good performance. Serbia, Hungary, Italy – the superiority of these teams is undoubted. Croatia did a great job in the match against Montenegro; it was their breakthrough.

– What can you say about the women’s tournament?

– Everything was also quite predictable. We should admit that not European teams but such countries as the USA, Canada and Australia dominate the field of play here. The American water polo players showed an excellent game. Although I wouldn’t dismiss the Dutch squad that sent the Russian women’s team packing. All in all, all the national teams that had been expected to make it to the decisive matches, managed to do this. Were there any exceptions? Unfortunately, the reigning world champion, the water polo team from Spain failed to advance to the semifinal; I guess something went wrong there.

– And what about the fact that both the men’s and women’s reigning world champions dropped out of the game before even reaching the semifinal. Isn’t that strange?

– Not at all! Let’s have a look at the Hungarian national team. Yes, they lost to Italy, but the truth is that it’s always quite difficult to play versus Italy every time and everywhere. Both teams are made up of the best water polo players from more than eight teams and all of them are about to contend for gold. No one but them decide who will be on the top of the podium. The Hungarian team shouldn’t blame themselves at all; they showed an outstanding game even though they suffered a defeat. They left a good impression on me. As for the Spanish water polo team, I‘m of the same opinion here. It’s all about the high level of competitiveness at the FINA Worlds 2015. It should be like this.

– Every world championships introduce some unexpected coaching novelties, non-standard approaches. Did you notice something like this at the current tournament?

– This is the very reason why I personally singled out the Greek team among the others. You know this team is not represented by big-name athletes but they managed to focus more on a fast-paced game and used it as their best card. What caught my eye is how the experience and youth are perfectly mixed in this team.

– The FINA Worlds water polo tournament is held at an outdoor venue. Does it have an impact on the tactics or the results?

– Water polo matches of the World Championships are always held outdoors. It has always been like this.

– I know that club tournaments are usually staged indoors, how do the athletes overcome the difference between indoor and outdoor matches?

– The national teams generally train outdoors rather than indoors ahead of major tournaments. The Russian team also does the same. It is a painful shift but national teams are already used to it. 

– As far as I know swimmers prefer open water bodies. What about water polo players?

– On the one hand, yes, it’s easier. It’s fresh on the open water body, and there’s enough air. However, on the other hand when playing outdoors a goalkeeper can be kind of blinded by the sun and can miss a goal. As for an indoor swimming pool, the lights there are arranged in such a way that they do not blind players. 

– You are a former national team player. Were you disappointed when the Russian national water polo team dropped out of the tournament in the early stages?

– To tell you the truth I don’t understand some things. I think that they should have fielded the strongest team for the home World Championships. And I think they should follow this rule for every international tournament, otherwise why we, the coaches, do our job?! No one but best water polo players should show the best of their abilities at such high-profile events and be exposed to the international public as well as to the host crowd which gives such a tremendous support.

– And by the strongest players you mean the ones who brought gold medals for Russia at the 2013 Summer Universiade?

– Yes, you are absolutely right! I am inclined to believe that the results would have been absolutely different now if the Russian national team had had some champions from the Russia’s Universiade national team on its roster. Or at least those who were representing Russia at Gwangju 2015 in South Korea.

Press Office of Organising Committee for 16th FINA World Championships