OLYMPICS: Long Beach Water Polo Could Bring Gold for Team USA

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Photo by US Presswire/Straffon Images/Allen Lorentzen.

This article was co-written by Sarah Bennett.

When the Olympics begin in London this weekend, a record number of 32 athletes with Long Beach ties will be competing in everything from basketball to volleyball to track and field.

But as a city that’s very much associated with the water, it is perhaps very fitting that there are more local members of the 2012 USA Olympic Water Polo Teams than there are participating in every other sport besides volleyball. With seaside talent on their side, both USA Water Polo teams won silver in Beijing and for the first time since 1904 (when only American men competed) and they may actually bring home gold this year.

Many water polo players from neighboring cities have been brought up training with Long Beach’s world-class youth clubs—and several players on this year’s U.S. Olympic teams currently reside here for training purposes—but there are only four players between the two teams who actually both grew up and went to school in town.

These include former silver-medalist Lauren Wenger, who is once again a part of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Water Polo Team; Chay Lapin, a member of the U.S. Olympic Men’s Water Polo Team; Ryan Bailey, a defender on the Men’s Water Polo Team; and Tony Azevedo, captain of the Men’s Water Polo Team who is also widely regarded as one of the greatest water polo players in the world.

Women’s assistant coach Heather Moody is also a Long Beach native (she briefly served as assistant coach for the 49ers water polo programs) as is Robert Lynn, a former Team USA player who has been assisting the Men’s head coach since retiring from competition.

Wenger, Azevedo and Lapin all went to Wilson Classical High School and were members of the school’s water polo teams there. Bailey attended Millikan High School and (though we may be splitting hairs, here) USA Men’s team member Adam Wright also played water polo for Wilson, but is actually from and still lives in Seal Beach.

Profiles of Long Beach’s four Olympic water polo players are below:

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Lauren Wegner

Wenger earned a scholar-athlete award during all 4 years at Wilson and in her senior year she won the Pan American Championship as part of the US National Team. She was also awarded All-American honors as well as all-league and CIF First Team honors. After graduating from Wilson in 2002, Wenger enrolled at the University of Southern California, where she led the school to place 2nd at the NCAA during her senior year before graduating with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Policy and Administration. She received a silver medal at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing after the women’s water polo team from The Netherlands defeated the U.S. Women’s Water Polo Team in the finals.

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Chay Lapin

During his years at Wilson from 2001 to 2004, Lapin was a leader in helping the school win 4 CIF Southern Section Division I Titles and was named CIF Player of the Year during his senior year. That year he also won first team California-Hawaii All-American honors. After graduating from Wilson, he majored in Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles and graduated in 2010. Before earning his college diploma, Lapin became the first and so far only goalkeeper at UCLA to win the all MPSF Team honors during each of his four seasons. Lapin is making his Olympic debut this summer after being Team USA’s backup goalkeeper at the 2012 World League Super Final.

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Tony Azevedo

Azevedo was named Most Valuable Player during each of his four years at Wilson, where he led the men’s water polo team to win four consecutive California Interscholastic Federation Championships. He earned his degree in International Relations from Stanford University in 2005, where he won the 

Peter J. Cutino award during each of his four years there. Along with Bailey, he is a record-breaking four-time Olympian, playing with the men’s water polo team in 2000, 2004, 2008 and now 2012, winning the silver medal in Beijing at the last Olympic games.

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Ryan Bailey

Bailey started playing water polo when his older brother Joe began playing for Wilson’s team. His father Dan was the head water polo trainer at Cal State Long Beach and his brother went on to be the Olympic teams’ strength coach three times. Bailey attended University of California, Irvine where he was awarded All-American honors four times and in his senior year was named Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year. Since graduating, he has played in multiple European leagues including Dynamo Moscow, JUG Dubrovnik and his current team with VK Partizan in Serbia. He holds the Team USA record in the bench press at 385 lbs. and has the fastest recorded shot on the team at 54 mph. Like Azevedo, Bailey is also on a record-breaking fourth Olympic team.

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