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Home News Greek know-how leads China to the first water polo title in 12 years

Greek know-how leads China to the first water polo title in 12 years

Summer Games 7 August 2023
Qu Ying (China) in action against Italy in the women's water polo final

To win a water polo tournament you need to gain some know-how. To obtain this kind of knowledge, there are few better sources than a Greek coach with experience at the highest level of this sport.

Until a year ago Kostas Chatzidakis had spent his whole coaching career in his homeland. He is most notably known for his tenure at Olympiacos, one of the most successful clubs in European water polo.

And now, he has led the Chinese women’s team to its first FISU World University Games title in 12 years here in Chengdu.

WhatsApp Image 2023 08 07 at 16.02.41

Kostas Chatzidakis, China women’s water polo head coach, after his team’s gold medal winChina entered Monday evening’s final at the Modern Pentathlon Centre Swimming & Fencing Hall without a single loss in the tournament and completed a perfect run with a 12-7 gold-medal win over Italy.

“We started tonight’s final very well,” said Chatzidakis after the game. “Because of that we could control the game until the end. We just needed to keep the ball and let the time pass.”

China dominated not only during the final, but throughout the whole tournament. The team scored 140 goals in seven matches, with Yan Sia, a Shanghai University of Sport student, leading all scorers with 20.

“My teammates created a lot of chances for me and therefore I could score so many goals. The confidence and support that I got from them is priceless,” said a 21-year-old.

Looking only at the statistics, it may look simple, but in fact it is not.

In China, there isn’t a women’s water polo league, so the national team essentially functions here as a regular club.

WhatsApp Image 2023 08 07 at 16.02.42Modern Pentathlon Centre Swimming & Fencing Hall – site of water polo competition at the Chengdu FISU Games

“This is the main difference, and it has pros and cons,” commented Chatzidakis. “On the one hand, we have more time to practice together. But on the other hand, players lack a lot of experience as they don’t play competitively, they only train.”

For the Greek coach, who started his work in China last year, lack of league structures is not the only problem. With his assistants, he had to develop other important aspects of his team.

“Chinese athletes have excellent physical preparation. But for us, the biggest task was to change the tactics and work on technique.

“Another important note is that China has great athletes in individual sports. But in team sports it is still growing. We want to put some elements in place so the athletes from different provinces can work together and have great results.”

In Chengdu, the development of this Chinese team was obvious. But most importantly, the work done by Chatzidakis was not overlooked by his athletes.

“Our coach is very clear about the tactical side. We can absorb his system easily and we then show it in the pool,” added Yan.

In addition to his job as head coach of the university team, Chatzidakis is also the assistant coach to Charis Pavlidis on the Chinese senior women’s national team.

In the women’s water polo bronze medal match, Australia beat Japan 7-6.

Written by Piotrek Przyborowski, FISU Young Reporter