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20 August 2011 | in Waterpolo, Summer Universiade

2011 SU Update: Warriors in the Water


SHENZHEN - While athleticism itself is universial, every sport has its focus point. Basketball players need height and a sturdy hand. Football puts emphasis on pace and precision. Volleyball needs its players to have the best possible jump takeoff. Waterpolo players it seems, need to have all of the above, and much much more.

As soon as they dive in the pool, the battle begins. And its not just a fight to get the ball in the back of the net, it’s a fight for power, balance, and for breath. ‘Keeping your head above  water’ was never this literal.

Every muscle in the body needs to be in shape and in check. The legs and thighs keep the body afloat. The feet kick their way past the opponent. The hands, arms and shoulders need no explanation at all. They are the core of the entire mechanism, and of the sport itself.

Besides muscles, there is something else that waterpolo players use to get by and to survive their aquatic battlefield. It’s a trick of the trade that an old friend and waterpolo player reveiled – nails. There is a federation-approved limit that specifices the allowed nail length for official waterpolo matches, both men’s and women’s.  Otherwise, the pool would be as bloody as the ice in certain hockey games. The thing is though, that federation approved limit goes only for fingernails. Not a word about toenails. And waterpolo players all over the world are letting their toneails grow longer than they normally would. ‘By accident’ of course.

This just goes to show the gladiator-like qualities of waterpolo players, and the fact that their bodies can use all the (legal) help they can get. Is it legal though? Or should morals set that boundry even before federation rules?

All’s fair in love and war, they say. And waterpolo players will be the first to argue that their sport can fall into either category.


(Source: Sonja Nikcevic, FISU-AIPS Young Reporter/Serbia)