Tony Azevedo

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Tony Azevedo retires after 5 Olympics in water polo

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Tony Azevedo is ending one of the greatest water polo careers in U.S. history, retiring after a record five Olympics at age 35.

Azevedo, the first American to play in five Olympic water polo tournaments, said it was a tough decision but a necessary one to spend time with his family — wife Sara and two kids, according to the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram.

“The traveling and everything for them would be too much,” said Azevedo, who has a 3-year-old boy and a girl born after the Rio Olympics. “It’s time.”

Later, Azevedo said he will be part of a summer series of matches between the U.S. and a European powerhouse in California before officially ending his national-team career.

Azevedo was a teenage prodigy dubbed the “Kobe Bryant of water polo.” A ball boy at the 1996 Olympics, Azevedo made a list of about 13 goals as a “slow, fat, chubby kid” who wanted to start on his high school team.

He reached all of those goals except for one — a gold medal. Azevedo made his Olympic debut out of high school in 2000 and then helped lead the U.S. to silver at Beijing 2008, his lone Olympic or world championships medal in 13 combined appearances. He led the U.S. in goals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

“If anyone asks, am I going to miss the swimming? No. Am I going to miss the games? No. Are you going to miss the Olympics? No,” Azevedo said. “I’m going to miss those days of grinding with your teammates.”

Azevedo was one of the top U.S. stories of the Rio Olympics, since he was born in the Brazilian city and lived there for 23 days before moving to Southern California. Azevedo, whose father was a Brazilian national team member, played for a Sao Paulo club team for much of the past Olympic cycle.

The U.S. went 2-3 in Rio, failing to advance out of group play.

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U.S. men’s water polo caps Olympics with win over Italy

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With no shot at a medal, the U.S. men’s water polo team could have simply gone through the motions against an Italian team looking to take first place in Group B.

That didn’t happen however, with the Americans not only showing up for the match but winning by the final score of 10-7. Four players scored two goals apiece for the U.S., Josh Samuels, Tony Azevedo, Bret Bonanni and Alex Obert. Samuels’ second goal of the match with 4:41 remaining in the third period even the score at 7-all, and Obert’s goal with a man advantage with 15 seconds left in the period gave the Americans a lead they would not relinquish.

Goals from Azevedo and Bonanni in the fourth quarter finalized the scoring.

As a result of the defeat Italy finished group play third in Group B on six points, with Croatia taking second via head-to-head tiebreaker. The U.S. finishes their Olympics in fifth place in Group B.

Tony Azevedo, native of Rio, headlines U.S. Olympic water polo roster

Tony Azevedo
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Tony Azevedo‘s record fifth Olympics will take him home.

Azevedo, who was born in and resides in Rio de Janeiro, headlines the 13-man U.S. Olympic team named Thursday aboard the U.S.S. Midway.

Azevedo, 34, becomes the first five-time Olympian in U.S. water polo history. He’s still searching for his first gold medal after reaching the quarterfinals in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 but leaving with a combined one medal (silver in 2008).

Four of the 13 players on the Rio team have Olympic experience:

Tony Azevedo (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012)
Jesse Smith (2004, 2008, 2012)
Merrill Moses (2008, 2012)
John Mann (2012)
McQuin Baron
Bret Bonanni
Alex Bowen
Luca Cupido
Thomas Dunstan
Ben Hallock
Alex Obert
Alex Roelse
Josh Samuels

The U.S. men’s water polo team heads to Rio riding the confidence of a silver-medal finish in this year’s FINA World League.

The entire U.S. Olympic roster across all sports is now at more than 400 athletes.

MORE: U.S. Olympic women’s water polo roster