On Tuesday, June 12 early in the morning, in his home in Šibenik, Renato Vrbičić passed away.
One of the best Croatian water polo centers, representative, Olympian, and a legend of three clubs – Solaris, Split Adriatic, and Zagreb Mladost, was born on November 21, 1970, in Šibenik. He was a pioneer of the Croatian water polo, who won silver at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 — the first big medal of Croatian water polo.
At that time Vrbičić was indeed an indispensable part of the attacking Seven since he was the first anchor in Barakuda. After his native Solaris, he played in two Croatian clubs with which he won all European trophies. Moreover, some of them he won more than once.
In 1991 and 1992, he won the then European Champions League (today’s Champions League), wearing the cape of Jadran from Split. Later, while playing for Mladost, he won the Champions’ Cup in 1999 and LEN’s Cup in 2001. He was the three-time champion of Croatia with Mladost in 1997, 1999 and 2002, and the Croatian Cup winner in 1998 and 1999.
Vrbičić was uncompromising in-game, a fighter to the last second, and a man of superhuman strength with magical water polo skills. But outside the pool, he had a heart as strong as his body. Always smiling and up for a joke or two, he was the very heart of positivity.
At the end of his playing career, he left Zagreb and Mladost in 2003 and joined Italy for two seasons (Catania and Civitavecchia). He played his last season in his hometown, Šibenik. It was in the 2004/05 season. Upon ending his career, he stayed close to the pool, water, and water polo.
After that, he started working as a coach. First, he trained younger players in Šibenik in club Solaris. In the same club, he started training with the senior team in 2015. As he was thriving as a coach, he eventually became the leader of Croatian younger players.
Last year, as an assistant coach for the Croatian team up to 20 years, he won a silver medal at the World Championships in Belgrade. There were so many quarters, matches, and seasons that will miss his presence. He may not be at the pools, but he will always stay in hearts of everyone around him.