Exposure key to water polo hopes

Exposure key to water polo hopes
Dual Olympic gold medallist Igor Milanovic believes that a small talent pool can be offset by playing against strong opponents.

Singapore's ambition of being a strong water polo nation hinges on more exposure and competitions at senior level, says former two-time Olympic gold medallist Igor Milanovic.

The Serbian knows first-hand how a higher level of competition in water polo can improve the quality of players after having to do the same in 1995 when he returned to his first club, Partizan Belgrade.

The former Yugoslavia, which he helped to Olympic glory in 1984 and 1988, was a powerhouse in water polo until the state dissolved in 1992.

Although the break-up of the country meant a smaller talent pool was available, Partizan ventured abroad to play stronger teams in order to improve.

"We sought out tougher opposition from Slovakia, Romania and Hungary to play in a separate league to improve ourselves, and ended up winning it for two years," said Milanovic, 48, who is in town to conduct a coaching clinic for Singapore water polo coaches.

"We ended up forming the bulk of the new Serbian national team, and I believe Singapore can follow this model."

The idea of settling up a national water polo league is among those set to be proposed when the post of the Singapore Swimming Association's (SSA) vice-president (water polo) is up for election in June. The Straits Times understands that at least two candidates will vie for the position.

While the SSA already has a league in place, it features mostly members of the national team, former internationals and those on the fringes of the team. There are only a handful of teams and they only compete for about two months a year.

Singapore have won the SEA Games 25 times but have yet to win an Asiad medal since coming home with a bronze in 1986.

Ex-national player Luo Nan, 34, now the coach of the national women's team, believes a new league could raise standards.

"Playing against different players will get the national boys to raise their game, and improve from there," he said.


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