Virgen: Preparing for Olympics

April 17, 2012|By Steve Virgen

While growing up in Long Beach, Ryan Bailey was fortunate enough to meet his heroes.

He loved water polo and still does. The Olympians he met back in the day made an impact on his life. In 1984, Bailey was 9 when his father, Dan, worked as a trainer for the U.S. Olympic men's water polo team. He also met big-time players when they came to conduct clinics in Long Beach.

Nowadays, it's Bailey's turn to inspire and encourage young people. He was doing that on Saturday during a meet-and-greet with Olympians at Westminster mall.


Bailey, a former UC Irvine All-American, was one of four who helped promote water polo at the mall, along with teammate Tim Hutten, also out of UCI, former Corona del Mar High standout Tumua Anae and Elsie Windes of the U.S. women's team.

Bailey is now 36 and preparing to play in his fourth Olympics this summer in London. Water polo is his life.

The past few months have been rigorous and it will only intensify as the Games approach. In June, Bailey expects the men's team to have just one day off during its training.

Next week, it's off to Serbia. During June, teams from other nations will visit for some exhibition games.

The men's team won the silver medal in the Beijing Olympics. It was the first time the U.S. men's water polo team medaled in the Olympics since 1988.

Bailey started playing in the Olympics as the youngest player on the team. Now he's the oldest. He has accomplished nearly every goal he set out.

"My last goal to do is to win a gold medal," said Bailey, who is also an assistant coach at Corona del Mar High.

"I think we are going to be right there," Bailey said of the Americans' chance for gold. "On the men's side, there are seven or eight teams that have a chance at the gold medal. It's going to come down to the bounce of the ball, one stop, one goal. It's really a one- or two-goal difference from the top team. It's going to be fun. We have as good a chance as anybody. We beat all the top teams. We're going to be right there in the mix. It's going to be pretty awesome."

Bailey and Hutten are confident about the U.S. team. Training in California has helped. In the past, players gained training time individually or overseas while playing pro in other countries, Bailey said.

"This year we all stayed at home," Bailey said. "Part of the deal we made with the USOC and sponsors was they have to take care of us better than they have in the past. It's still not a lot but it's enough to live on."

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