USA water polo teams need to qualify for 2012 Olympics


As many as 10 current or former Stanford water polo players will be competing for their Olympic lives in the coming weeks when both the U.S. men's and women's national teams head into the Pan American Games set for Oct. 23-29 in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The event serves as a qualifying opportunity for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England. Both USA teams missed out on automatic berths at this summer's FINA World Championships in Shanghai, China.

The men's roster will feature 11 of the 13 athletes who competed at the World Championships, earning sixth place. Stanford grads Peter Varellas, Peter Hudnut, Tony Azevedo and Layne Beaubien will represent the Cardinal.

The USA women also missed out on a medal in China and still need to qualify, as well. The U.S. National Team roster includes current Stanford players Melissa Seidemann, Annika Dries and freshman Maggie Steffens plus Cardinal grads Lauren Silver, Jessica Steffens and veteran Brenda Villa. Silver will be an alternate.

Before the past and present Cardinal athletes compete in Mexico, Stanford gymnast Kristina Vaculik will attempt to secure an Olympic berth this weekend at the World Championships at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

Vaculik, a Canadian citizen, competed for the Cardinal as a freshman last spring and is taking a year off from school in an attempt to earn a spot in the 2012 London Games.

Vaculik and Canada can clinch an Olympic berth by placing among the top eight teams at the worlds, which begin Friday. If that doesn't happen, Canada still can qualify if finishes among the top four at a pre-Olympic qualifier in early 2012. Last year, Canada was 13th at the World Championships in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Vaculik is a two-time Canadian all-around champion and has approached the worlds by adding difficulty to her routines in an effort to upgrade them for international competition.

"She's always been a great competitor and the experience of competing every weekend in the U.S. will really pay off for her," Canadian women's national team director Kyna Fletcher said to Gymnastics Canada.

Previous experience may help Vaculik and her teammates after they placed third as a team in July's Tokyo Cup at the same venue.

— Palo Alto Online Sports/Stanford SID

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