USA Water Polo
Ratko Rudic Accepts Head Coaching Job in Croatia
Famed Olympic Coach to Finish Career in Home Country
Los Alamitos, CA, December 9, 2004—U.S. men’s head water polo coach Ratko Rudic will be stepping down to accept the job as the men’s head coach in his home country of Croatia, USA Water Polo announced today (Thursday). The animated Rudic is the most successful Olympic coach of all time, having won three consecutive gold medals with two different teams between 1984-1992.
“We are sad to see Ratko leave,” said USA Water Polo Executive Director Tom Seitz. “He has done much for our National Teams and development programs in these four years but this was the absolute best thing for he and his family at this point and we wish him the best.”
Rudic’s departure comes just months after signing a four-year contract extension with USA Water Polo.
“We built in some restrictions to his contract to keep him from leaving in the middle of the quad, but it would have been very difficult to try to keep him here at the start of it,” said USA Water Polo President Richard Foster. “And when we spoke about it last week, we didn’t really focus on the legal issues. We just wanted to focus on what was best for him. He brought innovation to our training and organization that will benefit our program for years to come.”
Rudic, a native of Split, Croatia, took over the U.S. men’s program in January of 2001, just months after beating the Americans in the fifth place game of the Sydney Olympics. The improvements he has made have been numerous and significant. His sweeping changes to the Premier League and advent of the American Water Polo League have given the U.S. the framework on which to build a viable professional arena for water polo players in the U.S. like the ones they have in Europe. Rudic’s devotion to building a strong water polo nation from the ground up was evident in the creation of the Olympic Water Polo Academy and National Age Group Championships, the latter of the two being modeled on similar successful tournaments in Europe.
Internationally, Rudic guided the U.S. men to a second place finish at the 2003 U.S. Cup before moving on to net first place at the 2003 Pan American Games and a third place finish in the 2003 FINA World League Super Final. Rudic’s team, while young and inexperienced in terms of international play, began to draw the attention of the water polo community as a threat to upend the European-heavy ranks of the Olympic field last summer but encountered a tough bracket in Athens and finished out of medal contention in seventh place.
Rudic is known for his theatre on the pool deck as much as he is known for his intensity. His workouts are notoriously difficult, with players routinely swimming up to 10,000 yards in a single session and working out hard just prior to games.
Rudic will be taking over a Croatian team that finished 10th at the 2004 Olympics and last saw the medal stand in major competition at the 1996 Olympics when it won silver.
A search is already underway for Rudic’s replacement. For more information on Rudic or USA Water Polo, please visit www.usawaterpolo.org.
Ratko Rudic – Olympic Coaching Career
1984 Gold – Yugoslavia
1988 Gold – Yugoslavia
1992 Gold – Italy
1996 Bronze – Italy
2000 5th Place – Italy
2004 7th Place – USA