Water polo legend Tony Azevedo is now officially retired. He said goodbye to the USA national team on June 11 at Stanford University after the match against Croatia. After the first half in which he scored one goal, the crowd gave him a standing ovation during the farewell ceremony. Azevedo received an award from Stanford University and a number 8 cap from Croatia. Team USA handed him a commemorative plaque with his cap and picture framed, and inscription “Five-time Olympian.”
Tony Azevedo is a five-time Olympian who won the silver medal in 2008 in Beijing. Other highlights of his career include five gold medals at the Pan American Games, two FINA World League silver medals, as well as the bronze at 2003 FINA World League. In 2015, Azevedo participated at his eighth FINA World Championships which is the world record. While at Stanford University, he became the first-ever player to win the prominent Peter J. Cutino Award in four consecutive years. He was also named the 2004 American Water Polo Coaches Association Player of the Year for four consecutive seasons.
After he had announced he’s hanging his cap on the nail in December 2016, Azevedo accepted Coach Dejan Udovicic’s idea for the retirement game at a place where his career had begun. It was determined that it be during the four-game set in June when the USA Team is hosting Croatia national water polo team (June 9-14).
The match on June 11 was very exciting and balanced. Bowen and Azevedo scored the opening goals giving the USA an early two-goal lead. Croatia brought down the deficit to one by the end of the first quarter (2:1). Croatia stroke back with two straight goals in the second quarter taking over the lead for the first time. However, Ramirez equalized and Cupido netted one for the USA’s one-goal advantage at halftime (4:3). Even though Bowen scored two goals in a row to bring the USA three-goal difference, the third quarter also ended in a draw. Garcia responded in the same manner and Croatia was again falling behind by one before the final period (6:5). Fatovic netted an equalizer for Croatia at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but Hooper’s goal kept the USA in the lead. The result was yet again tied after Setka’s goal, and Fatovic scored the winning goal for Croatia with less than two minutes left on the clock.
Teamusa.org carried Azevedo’s message to the crowd during the ceremony:
“There’s nothing better for me than ending with these guys right here. I’ve literally bled, sweat and cried with Team USA. Being one of 13 people chosen every four years to represent their country, there’s no better feeling than that.”
Even though he played his last game on June 11, Azevedo will not leave water polo. He will remain devoted to his sport’s development. In his interview to Waterpology.com, Tony spoke about the Aquatic Games which will be organized this summer, his Summer Academy and other plans for the future.
One of Azevedo’s wishes is also a professional water polo league in the United States:
“We need a professional league. It would be good if all the center water polo players who go to college, finish college, have a degree, then continue to play here on a professional level. My goal would be to make it a real worldwide league, and that’s going to give people the level to continue and I think it will save our sport.”