July 15,2014(ISN) – The past few weeks have been action-packed for Canada’s National Senior Men’s Water polo Team. After a sixth place finish in Dubai at the Super Final of the 2014 FINA World Water Polo League, several players have signed contracts with professional clubs in Europe.
In all, five players from the National Senior Team have secured professional contracts for the upcoming season – the largest number in the Canadian water polo team’s history.
Captain Kevin Graham (Saskatchewan) is headed to the OSC Club in Hungary. Nicolas Constantin-Bicari (Repentigny) has signed with Jug Dubrovnik in Croatia. Constantine Kudaba (British Columbia) will join France’s Aix club, while Oliver Vikalo (Calgary) and goalkeeper Dusan Aleksic (Gatineau), will both make their professional debuts in Hungary with the Debrecen and Kaposvar clubs, respectively. The National Team has also noted that it is currently pursuing overseas opportunities for other players.
Constantin-Bicari Swims Into the Deep End!
In the water polo universe, Constantin-Bicari’s recent signing with Croatia’s Jug is the equivalent of a contract with one of the National Hockey League’s ‘original six’ teams. The Dubrovnik-based club was founded in 1923, and benefits from a long-standing tradition of athletic excellence in the sport, featuring athletes of the highest calibre.
The 22 year-old Canadian simply could not hide his joy from being one of the very few North Americans selected to join this highly respected organization.
“Dubrovnik is a club which I considered to be almost inaccessible,” commented Constantin-Bicari. “So it goes without saying that it was a thrill merely to be considered by them. When one of the most powerful, well-known teams in Europe approaches you and offers you a chance to play with the best players – that is an opportunity that is hard to resist,” he concluded.
A member of the National Senior Men’s Water polo Team since 2010, the 6 foot 4 inch (1.93 m) Hole Set position player will embark on his third year on the professional circuit after having spent time developing his skills with France’s Cercle des Nageurs de Marseilles for the past two years.
A Powerful Player
Constantin-Bicari has made a great deal of progress since his first Pan-American games in 2008, and recently exhibited his prowess during the Super Final of the 2014 FINA Water Polo World League, where eight of the world’s best teams were competing. He was ranked second highest scorer of the tournament with 16 goals in six matches, behind Serbia’s Filip Filipovic.
Yet, the Canadian still believes he has things to learn from the sport’s most successful players. One of his goals for the upcoming season in Dubrovnik is to take some inspiration from Croatia’s Niska Dobud, often thought of as the world’s best water polo Hole Set – the same position the Quebec native plays.
“On the Canadian National Team – just like for the past two years in Marseilles – I was first Hole Set. This time, I’m heading to Dubrovnik knowing that I’ll be second behind Dobud – and I intend to learn as much as possible from him,” stated Constantin-Bicari.
Nicolas Constantin-Bicari is looking forward to the upcoming year, brimming with enthusiasm. “Honestly, I can’t wait! The team I’ll be on is one of the top three teams, so I’ll have the chance to play in roughly forty or so matches. It will be very exciting to play water polo at this level.”
Alex Beslin, the National Men’s Team Head Coach, who is also responsible for the Calgary National Training Centre, confirms the value of Canadian team members’ participation in overseas sport. “Players in European clubs can participate in three or four times as many matches than we in Canada can, which represents a huge advantage in international tournaments.”
Both the athletes and their coach hope that these recently inked contracts with European clubs will lead to improved player development and will reinforce tactical and physical work already completed by the Canadian Team.
“The National Team and representing Canada remain my number one priority,” confirms Constantin-Bicari. “Aside from a personal milestone and the satisfaction of playing in Croatia, the goal is to continue to progress as an athlete to help the team qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.”
Team Canada is also preparing for the Toronto 2015 Pan-American Games, set for Summer 2015.