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Sports This Week: Road to gold was bumpy for Water Polo Canada men

McKnight said the road to the gold was a rather bumpy one.
Body McKnight of Regina tending goal for Team Canada.

YORKTON - When Water Polo Canada Men’s Senior National team won gold medals at the 2023 Pan Am Aquatics Championships held recently in Bauru, Brazil, Regina’s Brody McKnight was a major contributor playing goal.

With the win the men’s team qualified for the 2023 World Aquatics Championships, which will be held July 14-30 in Fukuoka, Japan, and will be the first qualifying competition for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in the sport of water polo. 

Canada finished the tournament in first place with two wins and two losses, the latter two coming against Argentina, including the last one in a shootout. Brazil and Argentina respectively took the second and third spots in the final ranking. 

McKnight said the road to the gold was a rather bumpy one.

“It was difficult,” he said.

The team “ended up beating Brazil at home,” to start things off said McKnight, adding that was not easy as it was the Brazilian’s home pool.

Then Canada dropped a game to Argentina, a team they usually top, he noted.

Things were simply a bit topsy turvy.

“It was just difficult, but we got it done,” reiterated McKnight.

So how did the netminder feel he played?

“For me it was OK,” he offered, adding he did not feel he excelled.

“I was coming off a long season. I was not at my best.”

Of course a bigger question was how did a Prairie boy from Regina end up travelling the world playing water polo when most youth are attracted to hockey, curling or other sports typically more familiar.

“I grew up trying almost every sport like a lot of kids do,” said McKnight.

Among the many sports he found he liked to swim, but wanted a little more action.

“I remembered seeing water polo in the Olympics,” said McKnight.

Already being “strong in the water” he took to water polo at age seven, and never looked back as the old cliché goes.

While water polo does not have the profile here, there are enclaves around the world where the ans turn out in numbers to watch pro teams battle it out in the pool.

That has meant opportunities for McKnight.

In the 2020-2021 season he spent the year playing water polo professionally in France for Pays D’aix Nataion playing in the Elite Championship league, and this past season with KPK from Korčula in Croatia.

“It’s pretty nice,” he said of playing in Croatia, living on an island in the Adriatic Sea, and playing in front of a vehement fan base – “the whole town comes out to support the team.”

Of course the chance to play professionally does mean being far from home, with no pro water polo in North America – at least yet.

McKnight said there are areas such as California where interest in the sport is higher, and he said he believes in the next “five to 10 years there will be a professional league.”

But before that happens it will be off to Fukuoka, Japan for the FINA World Championships in July.

While not going in with many thinking a medal for Canada, McKnight said if the team is focused and ready they can be a dark horse for a podium finish even if the country is currently rated only 19th in the world.

“What we do have is heart,” he said.