It's the final stretch before the Tokyo Olympics and the Canadian women's water polo team is ramping up its preparations with a three-game exhibition series against the No. 1 team in the world, the United States.
Canada will take on the Americans, the two-time defending Olympic champions, in a strict and controlled environment in California Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
It will be the first time in 18 months that Team Canada will have an opportunity to face another national team.
Like many national teams, the Canadian water polo team had to adjust its training plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They were slated to go to Hungary in March 2020 for a training camp and exhibition series, but that was cancelled, as were trips to the U.S. in late 2020 and early 2021, which were ultimately cancelled due to the second and third waves.
Thanks to training allowances and support from its high-performance partners, such as the Institut National du Sport du Québec, the team has been able to train together for the past eight months.
"We are excited to have the opportunity to train and compete against the two-time defending Olympic Champions as we kick-start our return to competition," said Justin Oliveira, the high performance director at Water Polo Canada. "The next week of common training and three official games will allow us to gradually test our game readiness to further adapt training interventions over the course of the next two months."
European stretch before Tokyo
Following the series against the Americans, the Canadian team will head to Europe for additional matches and training. First in Italy and then in Greece, where the team will play its first official tournament since the pandemic began, the FINA Women's Water Polo World League Super Final from June 14-19.
The team is currently carrying 16 athletes, which will be cut down to 12 plus one alternate for the Tokyo Olympics.
Canada opens its Olympics against Australia July 24 at the Tatsumi Water Polo Centre, followed by Group A games against Spain, South Africa and the Netherlands. The top four teams in each of Group A and B advance to the quarter-finals.
The athletes participating in next few weeks' preparation matches and training camps are:
Goalkeepers: Jessica Gaudreault (Ottawa), Clara Vulpisi (Montreal), Claire Wright (Lindsay, Ont.)
Attacker/Utility: Amanda Amorosa (Kirkland, Que.), Joelle Bekhazi (Pointe-Claire, Que.), Kyra Christmas (High River, Alta.), Axelle Crevier (Montreal), Monika Eggens (Pitt Meadows, B.C.), Shae La Roche (Winnipeg), Elyse Lemay-Lavoie (Montreal), Kelly McKee (Calgary), Hayley McKelvey (North Delta, B.C.), Marilia Mimides, Kindred Paul (Spruce Grove, Alta), Gurpreet Sohi (Delta, B.C.), Emma Wright (Lindsay, Ont.)