Fischer sisters make US water polo roster for Rio Olympics
The Fischer sisters have arrived a bit ahead of schedule. Everything should be fine as long as the teenagers keep their water polo talk to the pool.
Makenzie and Aria Fischer are two of the youngest players on the U.S. roster for the Rio Olympics. The roster of 13 players was announced at the LA84 Foundation on Thursday in Los Angeles, with attacker Maggie Steffens among four returners looking for a second straight gold medal.
Steffens helped clear the way for the Fischers with her breakout performance in London in 2012, when the first-time Olympian turned 19 just before the games and scored 21 goals to power the U.S. to the title.
Makenzie Fischer turned 19 in March, and Aria is the youngest player on the team at 17.
''I think if anything what Maggie proved to everyone last quad is that age doesn't matter,'' U.S. coach Adam Krikorian said. ''As the old UCLA softball coach used to tell me, Sue Enquist, the game doesn't know how old you are, and the Fischers are proving that again to be true.''
The rise of Makenzie Fischer from prospect to key member of the national team coincides with a conversation she had with Krikorian, who was concerned about Team USA's defensive depth and speed, especially on the right side.
''We pinpointed those areas a couple years ago,'' Krikorian said, ''and we talked to Makenzie about adapting or accepting this new role as a defender and someone who played on the right side of the pool and really working on her explosiveness and her speed, and she's just one of those kids who when you tell her to work on something, she'll get after it.''
She sure did.
Makenzie, who deferred her acceptance at Stanford to try for a spot on the national team, scored a whopping 24 goals to help the U.S. qualify for the Olympics on its way to an 8-0 record at a qualification tournament in March in the Netherlands. She had six goals in the U.S. run to the world title last year.
But the change in roles for Makenzie meant she had to defend Aria more in practice, and that is a work in progress.
''We cannot talk about it afterwards because then we just start bickering about who did what and who did what and what's right and what's against the rules, in a sisterly way,'' Aria Fischer said, chuckling, ''so we just leave it all in the pool.''
While Makenzie was considered a long shot to make the team when the process started, she was in the picture. Aria Fischer had to cover much more ground to get on the Olympic squad.
''Aria, I knew she was going to be good at some point, but there was no way I thought she was going to be where she is today,'' Krikorian said last month.
Each of the Fischer sisters brings good size to the pool; Makenzie is listed at 6-foot-1, and Aria is 6-foot. Krikorian said Aria Fischer isn't very athletic, but plays with determination and fight. Makenzie has the same competitive spirit, but wears it more inwardly.
''It always used to frustrate me, especially when I was younger, like oh, my little sister, she's swimming just as fast me now,'' said Makenzie Fischer, who goes by ''Fish'' or ''Fishy'' with the rest of the national team. ''And I consider myself a very competitive person, but she's just like to a whole another level.''
Their father, Erich, competed in water polo at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics when the U.S. team finished fourth. He was a two-time All-American at Stanford and still ranks in the top 10 with 197 career goals.
Even with their father's background, water polo was one of the last sports that the Fischer sisters tried while they were growing up in Laguna Beach, California.
''You learn so much from playing other sports,'' Erich Fischer said. ''You learn a lot from playing soccer, from basketball, and they kind of gravitated towards the team sports and they kind of gravitated towards the physical sports. You know, basketball's a physical sport, soccer's a physical sport, water polo, they like that physicality.''
Fischer said he wanted his daughters to have a certain comfort level in the water before they tried polo.
They look real comfortable now.
''It's been really neat to be able to spend this time with Aria because, I mean, we played before together, but this is a lot of practice,'' Makenzie Fischer said, ''and I'm spending all my time with her, so it's good to get closer with her.''
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap