Water polo player Alex Bowen has been representing the United States in international competition since 2013. In that time he has won gold at three FINA Intercontinental Tournaments and the 2015 Pan American Games, and twice placed fourth at the FINA World League Super Final. Bowen scored three times at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. He is chronicling his journey at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 for TeamUSA.org and @TeamUSA social channels.
This was a very long summer and it was all worth it. I am immensely proud of the growth of our team in the last couple months, and I’m so excited for our bright future. The Pan American Games went well this year, but they weren’t without some hiccups.
I spoke of our win over Cuba in my last post. Our second game, however, was not routine. This was the third time we saw Canada this year; the first was in Sao Paolo, Brazil, to qualify for worlds, and then in Chengdu, China, during a tune-up four nations tournament before worlds. For both wins (18-9, 12-7), however, we didn’t start the game the same way. In Lima, the first half was close, the ball was falling their way, bar ins for them bar outs for us, just how it goes sometimes. We were able to pull away in the third, but we didn’t shut the door properly and they made a run on some of our mistakes. We took care of business and finished the game with a win, 13-11. It wasn’t how we wanted to win – it was ugly, we made mistakes – but like the saying goes, ‘a win is a win.’
Our next game wasn’t close, but Puerto Rico put forth a lot of effort.
We were able to get out of the village a little bit and enjoy a great team dinner on our day off. It was very nice to get out and about to see the lively Miraflores area and really reset ourselves before the second half of the tournament. Great food, great company – it’s one of the best parts of the job.
With all of our games, our focus has been on us, and that was the same for the quarterfinals. We focus on how well we execute, minimize our mistakes, shot block and finish. Peru wasn’t up to the task, but it is good to see the sport expanding. In the semis against Argentina we took care of business; we took the lead and didn’t look back. We used the game to build our momentum into the final.
I don’t think many people expected Canada to make it into the final, and all credit to them. They executed their game plan against Brazil in the semis, coming back from being down one with two minutes remaining to win. We knew what was in store for us for the final, we knew what we had to do. It was about us. We dominated from the beginning, winning the first quarter 4-1, and up at half time 10-2. We finished the game 18-6.
We accomplished our goal of qualifying for the Olympics.
The summer is over, and I am so excited for the future, but for now – rest. A lot happened this summer: all of June was a grind, a ton of work in the weight room and a countless amount of yards. We were excited to finally get started playing in Chengdu, and we started well. World championships were ultimately disappointing, placing ninth, but beating Montenegro in the last game at least gave us momentum and confidence going into the Pan American Games. The nightclub tragedy after worlds in Gwangju, I believe, galvanized us and brought us together. We got stronger this summer we were selfless, we fought, and we sacrificed for each other. I couldn’t be prouder of my teammates.