The best water polo players in the world combine strength, endurance, intellect, and agility to excel, and remain at the top of their sport. The following athletes are physical and mental models of what it takes to be the best water polo player in the world.
- Manuel Estiarte. Estiarte is both the Spanish matador and fearless bull in the world of water polo. Standing at only 5 ft. 8 in. tall and weighing only 145 pounds he exhibited unmatched stamina by playing on the Spanish national team more than 600 times. Estiarte also took part in six Olympic Games.
- Tony Azevedo. Azevedo is the consummate scholar and aquatic athlete. While helping his high school win four CIF championships, Azevedo won the MVP award all four years. During his four years at Stanford University, Azevedo propelled Stanford to two NCAA men’s water polo championships, led in scoring with 332 goals, and received the Peter J. Cutino Award four years in a row. Prowess in water polo went beyond high school and college. Azevedo, also participated in the Sydney and Athens Olympic Games. After graduating from Stanford, Azevedo was signed by the Bissolati Cremona to play professional water polo in Italy.
- Brenda Villa. The daughter of Mexican immigrants to the USA, Villa was named 2000-2009 FINA Aquatic World Magazine Female Water Polo Player of the Decade. During her time at Stanford University, Villa led the women’s water polo team to a NCAA championship, and won the Peter J. Cutino Award. Villa was also a three-time Olympian winning two silver medals, and one bronze.
- Joseph Pletinckx. Pletinckx led his country of Belgium to medal at four consecutive Olympic Games, and in 1926 was a catalyst for Belgium winning the European Championships. Pletinckx also won thirteen swimming championships.
- Bradley Schumacher. Schumacher proved his mettle as an athlete among athletes becoming the first athlete to become a world champion in both swimming and water polo. Among the many honors and awards Schumacher has received are 1999 water polo player of the year, 1999 Pan American water polo gold medalist, 1997 FINA World Cup water polo gold medalist, and 1996 Olympic gold medalist in 400m and 800m freestyle relay.
- Maureen O’Toole. O’Toole was a trailblazer for women in the sport of water polo. When she was thirteen years old, O’Toole joined the boy’s water polo team because there was no team for girls. After graduation from high school she left California for the Aloha state to attend the University of Hawaii on a swimming scholarship because no one offered water polo scholarships for women. At the age of seventeen, O’Toole joined the Women’s National Water Polo Team, and went on to become a 15 time MVP winner of the U.S. Women’s National Team, 5 time U.S. Water Polo Female Athlete of the Year, 6 time World Water Polo Female Athlete of the Year, and was named 28 times to the All-American team for U.S. Water Polo.
These selections of best water polo players in the world prove that the heart of a champion cannot be categorized by size, or by gender; but the inner drive and spirit that propels them.