“We will go out with our hearts, we want to win ten years later”

15 years ago, Maica García was a young buoy who aimed high in water polo and who won silver in the European water polo held in Malaga. She could not even in her wildest dreams imagine what would come next. Medals and more medals, including three gold medals in Europe and another world championship, in 2013, in a bursting Picornell. Ten years later, the women’s water polo team can repeat the crown against Netherlands this Friday (11:00, Teledeporte) at the Fukuoka Swimming World Championships. After overcoming the “nerves” against Hungary and Australia in the crosses, after controlling both matches well because “experience is a degree”, the buoy of the Selection faces another final “proud” and highlights that Spain is “impressive” in defense. The path that can take them back to reign in world water polo.

-Ten years later, they can be world champions again. What does the data suggest to you?

-I did not imagine being here ten years later. Everything has happened quickly, but we have had many finals. It seems incredible to me to play again, although I would have liked to do it against the United States, to be able to beat them.

-In 2022 and 2023 the United States has lost more games than in the previous decade. What do you think of it?

-I could have expected it. After Tokyo we already saw that they were not the same, that they could be more expensive, that they continued to have a solid block but that they could also fail. In the World League they were beaten by Hungary, and also surprised. They had always been winning World Leagues. I thought that if we were first in the group here in Fukuoka we might be able to win them. I wish we had been the ones to kick them out. But there are powerful teams on the circuit: Italy lose to Greece and then Italy beat the United States and Australia beat Greece. There is a lot of competition. All teams have dominated others, perhaps for a mental or tactical issue.

-And they have dominated the Netherlands?

-The two teams are deserving of the work we have done, and we will relive the first group game. It will be different. We will go all out, we want to take the reign from the United States, we want to win the World Cup ten years later. It will not be easy. The Netherlands want us, they fell at the gates many times and they never took a medal from us. I expect a very tough, very tactical final, we know each other a lot because half of their team plays in the League. It will be a beautiful final to play and experience, we will go out with all our hearts and the desire to win ten years later. We no longer have the pressure for the Olympic spot, all of Europe was looking forward to us beating Australia.

-Is that why you see gold at the 2024 Paris Games more open than ever?

-Maybe I live in a parallel world, but in the Tokyo final I think they were winnable, although the score did not reflect reality. What is happening with the United States is a plus for all the teams, we can believe that it is possible, we can opt for gold and we work every day for that dream.

-What value do you give to the direct Olympic classification already in Fukuoka?

-A lot. She was talking about it with Anni Espar the other day. The youngsters have arrived and the results are very good, it is essential to get a place in a World Cup because we already did it in Gwangju in 2019 as well. When you play a Pre-Olympic you know what it’s like to not sleep, the mental pressure… The overexertion is incredible. That is why the double prize of this final is wonderful.

Laura Ester, Maica García and Mati Ortiz, with the cups you won in Sabadell, in a report by AS.
Laura Ester, Maica García and Mati Ortiz, with the cups you won in Sabadell, in a report by AS.IN-DIAMONDS POSTDiary AS

-I was talking about Anni, who along with you, Pili Peña and Laura Estar are the veterans, the ones who have lived it all. How do they share leadership?

-They are roles that with experience you take on and you realize when the time will come for you to have another function. Above all we have to help those who enter, give them the best advice, provide them with experience… And if you have the minutes, set an example. Not everything has to go through the veterans, we just give them the keys, the keys so that everything works well. It’s not difficult at all for us. We talked about it and it’s easy.

-There has been a large generational change after Tokyo, and you have been champions of Europe, of the World League and now you are in the final in Fukuoka. An unbeatable relay and faster than expected?

-It has been super fast, very easy for the young people and for us. We help each other a lot. We make it very easy for them, and they work hard, contribute inside and outside. Last year the World Cup in Budapest was not our goal, because it was decided in February to play it in June, but we are an ambitious team. The United States was a rock, we did not have an easy path. Then we won the European Championship and the World League and that was a kick for the youngest.

-Judit Forca is no longer one of the youngsters, but her goals are decisive like those of Elena Ruiz, 18 years old and who has already won almost everything. How important are they?

-Judit is one of the best on the circuit, she is proving it, when she is in the water she has a cannon, she gives us security because she has a very high effectiveness. She is the best player in Europe, a well-deserved award, we are happy that she is following her. Elena entered Tokyo very young: she already came with qualities and she just had to mold herself. Then, the minutes that she has taken in these two years have helped her grow much faster. She has to believe it, she has to go to the goal no matter what, few players have that shot; We just have to clear the lane for him. She has a long way to go. She can improve in other aspects, but she has something terrific.

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