Tasty appetizers for worlds

Courtesy of Annika Dries

The beautiful pool in Barcelona will be a lot busier when the water polo world championships begin this weekend.

As a lead-up to the water polo world championships in Barcelona, Spain, we first ventured to the Netherlands. Nestled in the trees of Zeist Sports Center, we had common training with Holland and Canada. After getting in some solid training and weightlifting, we headed to the Dutch Trophy competition in the city of Gouda, which we found out is pronounced "Houda."

Other than hosting this event, Gouda is an old city known for its cheese and classic stroopwafels. I love cheese, so resisting eating the entire cheese wheel we received as a participation gift was quite a challenge.

All joking aside, the games at the Dutch Trophy were great preparation for the upcoming world championships, where 16 top water polo teams will compete for the title. Swimming, synchro and diving athletes also will compete at the various pools in Barcelona. For 2013, the highlight of any aquatic athlete or team is worlds.

Courtesy of Annika Dries

Annika Dries and her teammates took time to enjoy Barcelona this week, including getting together for a tapas dinner.

In our games in Holland, we had a dominating fourth quarter against our Pan-Am rival Canada, outlasting them 15-8. We held Greece to a low-scoring first half, winning 11-7. And we played a tough, high-scoring game against Holland, losing 14-13. Since we will face both Greece and Canada in our opening-bracket games, it was a great opportunity to play these teams.

Since arriving in Barcelona, we have scrimmaged Spain every day. The competition pool is awesome. Set up on the hill next to a palace and the site of the 1992 Olympic Stadium, it is a beautiful venue. The outdoor stadium gets plenty of sun, and we are already putting on the sunscreen as if we are back home training at Los Alamitos. We also trained at another pool named Montjuic, where there were a lot of kids swimming. As we lined up to scrimmage Spain, a crowd of young Spanish boys gathered behind the cage shouting, "España, España, España." It was amazing how loud they were, but what better preparation than to hear home-crowd cheers and start playing for the silence.

We had a team dinner last night in town and tasted some amazing tapas. My favorites were the veal sirloin flautas, the mushrooms and croquettes with goat cheese. After fueling up, training all week and having Jay-Z's new album on repeat, we are excited to start the tournament. Our first game is Sunday versus Greece. Can't wait to play!

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