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Olympic medalists visit Bainbridge to help start water polo season
Two superstars of the water polo world will visit Bainbridge Island for a meet-and-greet with islanders Friday before the start of a three-day clinic for local athletes.
Former Olympians Ryan Bailey and Kelly Rulon will talk about the successes and challenges they faced before making it onto an Olympic team and host a question-and-answer session at the Bainbridge Island Aquatic Center at 7 p.m. March 1. The event is sponsored by the Bainbridge Water Polo Club.
Rulon earned a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics with the U.S. womens team, and also brought home a bronze medal from the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Bailey won a silver medal while on the U.S. mens national water polo team in 2008. He was also on the 2000, 2004 and 2012 teams, and was the leading scorer for the U.S. team in the 2012 London Olympics with 13 goals.
Chris Vacca, a board member for the Bainbridge Water Polo Club, said the visit by the Olympians will be an inspiring start to the water polo season. The Spartans' girls team started practice this week and their first scrimmage is planned for Monday.
Vacca recalled how Bailey rose to the upper echelons of the sport after an inglorious start; tagging after his older brother, Joe, who played water polo in high school.
"You don't have to have started at age 8 to become an Olympic athlete," Vacca said.
Bailey — a four-time All-American at the University of California, Irvine — is widely considered as one of the premier centers in the sport, and also boasts the fastest recorded shot on the U.S. water polo team (54 mph).
"And Kelly's resume is just as impressive, if not more," Vacca said of the standout scorer who led UCLA to four NCAA championships.
Their talk should be illuminating beyond any secrets to the sport itself, he said.
"There's an underlying story to tell; it's not just about being the best athlete you can be and win, win, win. There's a lot more than that," Vacca said.
The community is welcome at the free event, which will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 1 in the meeting room at the Bainbridge Island Aquatic Center.
After the public session, the clinic starts at 8:30 p.m. and runs for two hours.
The clinic continues from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 2 and 9 to 11:30 a.m. Sunday, March 3 at the South Kitsap Pool in Port Orchard. Participants can expect 10 hours of pool time with the two Olympians.
For those interested, there are a limited number of spots available in the clinic. For information, contact Vacca at 425-829-3079 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.