Report

Heroines for fifteen days: The 'boom' of women's water polo at the Olympic Games

January 22, 2013

Without much echo, the players of the Spanish Women's Waterpolo team won a historic classification for the Olympic Games in London, where in the surprise of the majority they hung a silver medal that brought them to fame. Months later, the female water polo once again stands between silence and oblivion.

From time to time, Laura Ramos still opens the box where he holds the silver medal before finding a safer place, "once all the bum has happened." This bitterness, as the goalkeeper of the Spanish National Team and CN Natació Sabadell explains, is basically based on the curiosity of some relatives and friends who have not yet seen the metal closely. Not so much by the media, that this summer focused part of their attention on the female Spanish team of Waterpolo, Olympic soccer champion in London, but that after a few months "are no longer there; we continue to follow, but no longer as much as the Games, "observes Laura, who combines elite sport with biochemistry studies.

Few were the optimists who had, before the great event this summer in the English capital, with a women's water polo medal. They did not come in the forecasts, although there were already voices that warned of the chances after good performance in the Kirishi Cup in Russia and the Preolímpico de Trieste of the girls directed by Miki Oca. One of the most trusted was ex-watercolor Dani Ballart, silver medal in Barcelona 92 and TVE commentator in London. Journalist Ernest Riveras, an Olympic specialist at the Spanish public television, remembers: "It is true that the female water polo did not appear in the sleepwalks, but Dani Ballart did not stop poisoning us, in the good sense of the word, warning of the good role that girls could do in their first games ».

But despite the good symptoms, even before the team qualified to play the final against the United States, TVE had doubts as to whether he would cast the last match in open or deferred, on his first channel or at Teledeporte. "When Spain came to the final, there were no doubts, but it would have been one of the events that would have been broadcasted late in the night," confesses Riveras. The colors of the flag of one of the finalists were, in this case, decisive to emit the female water polo live and the first channel, not as in the case of football, unmovable at La 1. Without the presence of Spain, eliminated in the first phase, the final between Brazil and Mexico had an 13,6% of screen quota and was followed by 1.453.000 people. The wise bet for women's water polo also gave a good response to TVE by the audience: nearly two million viewers followed it (16,5% share).

Unexpected and fleeting success
Nor among the players was there a feeling of security as to what the performance would be in their first Olympic participation. "We were surprised to ourselves and not, at the same time. Since 2010 we are with the same team, almost the same players, and we all know what we want and how we should do it. This year the results have accompanied us, but we look back and observe that the work has always been the same, "argues Laura Ramos. A mentality that did not avoid the disbelief of the players during the hours after the victory against Hungary in the semifinals. The goalkeeper of the team remembers with sympathy: "With the Jennifer Pareja, my roommate, we could not stop repeating" how strong, how strong. " It was two in the morning and emotion and adrenaline did not let us sleep. "

One of the keys to success was the confidence of the whole group and the winning mentality that was installed in the players after the classification in Trieste, summarized in one of the phrases that the coach, Miki Oca, goes to He directed the team once they got the ticket: "In London we do not go on vacation." A fact that, as explained by the Madrid coach, "players did not only understand but shared knowing that they had the level and the right game to get where we arrived ». The United States, against whom Spain tied to the group stage (9-9), deprived them of the gold medal, but the tears after the end were not sad but joyful, a symbol of the success that meant for such a young and inexperienced team to rise to the second stage of the podium in the first Olympic participation.

"They became media stars," says journalist Ernest Riveras. «When we arrived from London it was crazy. One day on the radio, another day on television », recalls the defender of the goal of the team. But after a few months, the media have disappeared, they are not in the pools. Last October saw the celebration of the female Supercup between CN Sabadell and CN Sant Andreu, with the presence of seven of the Olympic champions and the party, with a final victory for the Sabadell (11-5), is not televised

And not only the first title of the season has been abandoned by the media, but no television, neither state or regional, will not issue this year or a party of the female league. "I think that there is a serious problem of communicative policy of the federations, it is not invested. And the most flagrant is that the 2013 celebrates a world in our house and there is no clear policy to promote the water polo by taking advantage of the success of the girls in London. "It is the critical voice of Dani Pajuelo, ex-professional painter, journalist and author of the yearbook of the Catalan water polo, which at the same time considers that the regulation of sport "does not help to make it even more spectacular for television, people want attacks and goals and games are increasingly slow . Of the 30 seconds of possession in each attack, 20 spend them in the transition from one goal to the other. "

Consolidate the relationship
In Spain, football is the king sport, the most consumed TV product (the 2011, the Champions League match between Barça and Madrid was the most watched with fourteen million viewers and a 67% of screen share) And it is difficult to find other events that are not basketball, motor or tennis that are regularly issued on the grid. «Water polo is not a spectacular sport on television. Not when the pools are illuminated, it is difficult to see the actions underwater ... ", says Riveras as one of the possible causes of little waterpolo tracking on the small screen, adding:" in the Games Olympic this is solved with many cameras, several of underwater. But in Spanish competitions this costs a lot of money. "

Laura Ramos is also not surprised that the press has gone from publishing reports on the central pages to dedicating simple reviews of the results of the day, although the support of the paper or through the radio, the diffusion does not entail so many difficulties as the television. "It has always been this way", he acknowledges and, nevertheless, he only has words of gratitude for the media that, for some weeks, have made a springboard so that the female water polo would obtain the deserved recognition. "What we have done this summer has been a very important milestone in getting out in the media, because they talk about us and know that there is a female water polo. But throughout the year we continue to train and play and it is difficult for people to get interested if the media do nothing to report something else. »

Added to this, Miki Oca adds that the relationship between the media and the water polo "is quite good", but that "it could be improved by making it more constant and frequent. With more follow-up, there would be more communication about our sport, it would be very positive for us because they can also help us get sponsors and give more visibility to our work. "

Shared responsibility
For Ernest Riveras, it is clear that the presence and echo of women's water polo in the media is a responsibility shared by sports federations and communication professionals: "The media are going to make the solution easier, fill in the minutes with football and , in this sense, I believe that war is lost, "and notes" considering that football in Spain is the most important ". But it also burdens part of the blame for the federal agencies and the clubs, who are "incapable of profiting from the success of the women's water polo from nowhere, almost without support, organizing events and matches on days that there is no football, for example, and when the fabrics do not have the material to fill."

In the same line, Pajuelo explains, but points out that "the Olympic Games are a clear example of the return that you get from people betting on minority sports, those that seem to work very well only every four years." And adds: "If the media devote effort to talk about the water polo, to make quality programs, you can get a good echo, and it would be good for them because it gives them the variety that often lacks them." The recipe that Pajuelo proposes to achieve a greater presence of the water polo in the media is a mixture of work, dedication, interest and imagination because "the water polo is very difficult to sell."

The 2013 Swimming World Cup in Barcelona will be a new opportunity because the sport that gave the Olympic Games a return to the media, a good time for federations and the media to take advantage of the good sports health of the water polo to prevent it from returning to be in forgotten

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