With another gold, Krikorian keeps U.S. water polo team on top

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On Adam Krikorian’s first trip as coach of the U.S. women’s water polo team, he lost his players at the airport. Brenda Villa, Heather Petri and company disappeared right after they checked in.

Krikorian was looking around when he figured out what happened. His players had retreated to the lounges reserved for more experienced travelers.

“A couple of them came out and it was like, I felt like a rookie,” Krikorian said. “I felt like I was at spring training as a baseball player as a rookie trying to just learn the little subtleties of being part of the team. So those little things are I think the things that I remember most.”

Krikorian learned his way around pretty quickly. A few weeks later, he coached the U.S. to the 2009 world title.

In some ways, the world is still trying to catch up.

Four days after his 10th anniversary as national team coach, Krikorian guided the U.S. to gold at the FINA Intercontinental Tournament for the second straight year. Playing without Maggie Steffens after the captain got hurt in the semifinals, the U.S. got two goals apiece from Stefania Haralabidis, Kiley Neushul and Kaleigh Gilchrist in a dramatic 14-12 shootout victory over rival Australia in Perth on Sunday.

Steffens, the MVP of the past two Olympics, was held out after Krikorian said she was “on the wrong end of a cheap shot” in Saturday’s 14-7 victory over Canada – something he said has been happening more and more as the U.S. piles up international titles.

“I think people look at it as an opportunity to try to intimidate or do anything they can to kind of get us off our game and obviously that hasn’t happened,” he said Monday in a phone interview.

“I mean we’re looking at probably somewhere upward of 10, 11, 12 just direct shots out of the water to our kids.”

Krikorian, 44, played at UCLA and coached the men’s and women’s teams for the Bruins before taking over the U.S. women’s program.

With Krikorian on the pool deck, the U.S. has enjoyed an unprecedented run on top of the sport. It became the first country to win two straight Olympics titles when it rolled over the field in Rio in 2016.

It currently holds every major women’s water polo championship and will be a heavy favorite to win a third straight world title in South Korea in July.

Krikorian has come a long way since that first trip.

“I think I’m calmer, No. 1, and I think that’s largely because of the perspective I have,” he said. “I don’t think my competitiveness has died down, but I realize this is not the end all to life.

“I think maybe when I first began it was, you get so caught up in winning and losing and I’ve become much more process-oriented and I have a better perspective on things.”

Tokyo will be Krikorian’s third Olympics. He said he hasn’t thought about his future beyond that point.

While he wants to make sure he is continually challenged, Krikorian also is appreciative of his current position.

“There is just nothing like being part of a team in sports,” he said. “There’s just nothing like it. There’s the passion, the energy, the camaraderie, the connection and the relationships that you build. I have a hard time imagining that there’s any profession in the world that is going to be as satisfying as what I do.”

 

2022 Ironman Kona World Championships results

Ironman Kona World Championships
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2022 Ironman Kona World Championship top-10 results and notables (full, searchable pro and age group results are here) …

Pro Women
1. Chelsea Sodaro (USA) — 8:33:46
2. Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) — 8:41:37
3. Anne Haug (GER) — 8:42:22
4. Laura Philipp (GER) — 8:50:31
5. Lisa Norden (SWE) — 8:54:43
6. Fenella Langridge (GBR) — 8:56:26
7. Sarah Crowley (AUS) — 9:01:58
8. Daniela Ryf (SUI) — 9:02:26
9. Skye Moench (USA) — 9:04:31
10. Laura Siddall (GBR) — 9:07:49
16. Heather Jackson (USA) — 9:22:17
DNF. Sarah True (USA)

Pro Men
Race is on Saturday, live on Peacock at 12 p.m. ET.

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Chelsea Sodaro wins Ironman Kona World Championship, ends American drought

Chelsea Sodaro
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Chelsea Sodaro was the surprise winner of the Ironman Kona World Championships women’s race, ending the longest American victory drought in the event’s 44-year history.

Sodaro, a 33-year-old mom to an 18-month-old, prevailed in an unofficial 8 hours, 33 minutes, 46 seconds on Hawaii’s Big Island.

“My mind is a little bit blown right now,” she said in a finish area interview 25 minutes later, standing next to her daughter, Skylar. “This is the culmination of things being right in my life and having perspective. … This is freakin’ incredible, but the greatest gift at the end of the finish line is my little 18-month-old.”

Sodaro was in fifth place after the 2.6-mile swim and 112-mile bike, then recorded one of the fastest 26.2-mile marathon runs in event history (2:51:45) to win by 7 minutes, 50 seconds over Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay.

Swiss Daniela Ryf, who was eyeing her sixth Ironman world title, led after the bike but faded quickly on the run.

MORE: Ironman Kona Race Results

Sodaro, whose lone previous full Ironman was a second-place finish at June’s European Championships (reportedly in the second-fastest Ironman distance debut in history), became the first American to win in Kona since Tim DeBoom in 2002 and the first American to win the women’s race since Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser in 1996.

She is the first woman or man to win in their Kona debut since Brit Chrissie Wellington took the first of her four titles in 2007.

Sodaro (née Reilly) was an All-America runner at Cal, then placed 19th in the 10,000m at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

She turned to triathlon in 2017, made podiums on the World Cup circuit (just below the top-level World Series for Olympic hopefuls) and moved up to long-distance racing in 2018.

At the half Ironman distance, she was fourth at the 2019 World Championships, her last major championship start before the pandemic, pregnancy, childbirth and a move up to the full Ironman this year.

“I’m pretty stoked that I think I maybe get to take the rest of the year off and be a mom for a month or so,” Sodaro said.

The pro men’s race is Saturday, live on Peacock at 12 p.m. ET.

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