Top water polo players to watch in Rio
There's more to the U.S. men's and women's water polo teams than captains Maggie Steffens and Tony Azevedo. Get to know the other players before the 2016 Rio Olympic Games begin.
U.S. Olympic women’s water polo team captain Maggie Steffens looks to lead her team to become the first to repeat as Olympic gold medalists since the sport was opened to women at the 2000 Sydney Games. The U.S. women’s team is the first to hold concurrent Olympic, World, World Cup and World League titles as well as boast the 2015 Pan American Games gold medal. She debuted in the Olympics as a 19-year-old and won gold alongside her sister, scoring five goals in the Gold Medal Match and was named the 2012 Olympic tournament MVP.
Tony Azevedo was born in Rio de Janeiro and moved to California before he was a month old. Azevedo, now the team captain, is competing in his fifth Games – a U.S. record for water polo players – in the city of his birth. The closest he has come so far to the elusive Olympic gold medal was a silver with the team at the 2008 Beijing Games. They finished eighth at the 2012 London Olympics and were seventh at the 2015 World Championships, vaulting from ninth in 2013.
The only 2016 U.S. Olympic women’s water polo team member not from California, Ashleigh Johnson grew up in Miami, Florida and attends Princeton University with the hopes of becoming a doctor. The goalkeeper aided the team’s wins at the 2015 World Championships, 2015 Pan American Games, 2015 and 2016 World League Super Finals and 2014 World Cup title. She’s also the first African-American woman to make an Olympic water polo team.
Merrill Moses turns 39 during the 2016 Rio Olympics, which will be his third time on the Games stage. In 2004, he just missed the team and worked in the mortgage industry. In 2006 he was asked back and won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. That medal was later stolen while he was on vacation, and he’s been competing for another medal – ideally, gold – since. At the 2012 Olympics, the team finished in eighth place and finished ninth and seventh, respectively, at the 2013 and 2015 World Championships.
John Mann decided to pursue his Olympic dreams after watching the Games in 1996, around the same time he discovered water polo. He was an alternate for the 2008 U.S. Olympic team and in 2012, was part of the team as they finished eighth in the Olympic tournament. The team then finished ninth and seventh, respectively, at the 2013 and 2015 World Championships.