The list of great water polo players who retired from their national teams after the Tokyo Olympics has been expanded.
These days, four Croatian water polo stars confirmed that they had said goodbye to the national team.
Maro Jokovic (34), a left-handed goal-getter, said that he wouldn’t play for Croatia anymore in today’s interview for Dubrovacki Vijesnik.
At the same time, Ivica Tucak, Croatia’s head coach, told Sportske Novosti that, besides Jokovic, captain Andro Buslje and center-forward Luka Loncar had retired and confirmed that Paulo Obradovic also had said goodbye to the national team.
All four were considering retirement in the past few months, as we already wrote. Eventually, they decided that the time for the end had come.
All in all, the 2021 Olympic Games was the last competition in the national team for five Croats. Even before Tokyo, Xavi Garcia announced that he would end his career after the Games.
Andro Buslje (35) debuted Croatia in 2005 and won 22 medals with the national team. He is the most decorated water polo player in the history of the World Championships. Between 2007 and 2019, Buslje won two gold, one silver, and four bronze medals at the WCH. He was a member of all Croatia’s national teams that have won trophies at the World Championships to date. Buslje is a four-time Olympian and won the Olympic title in 2012 and silver four years after. Buslje climbed the podium at the European Championships twice (gold in 2010 and bronze in 2018), has seven medals in the World League, two in the World Cup, etc.
At the club level, Buslje lifted the Champions League trophy twice (2006 with Jug and 2018 with Olympiacos). This year, he returned to Olympiacos.
Maro Jokovic, who celebrated his 34th birthday two weeks ago, started playing for the national team a year after Buslje and clinched 19 medals with Croatia. Jokovic and Buslje have similar careers. Jokovic has one World Championships medal less than Buslje – six (2 gold, 1 silver, 3 bronze) because he missed the 2009 World Championships due to illness. Jokovic played at the Olympic Games four times and won the 2012 gold and the 2016 silver medal, as well as Buslje. He has two medals at the European Championships, six in the World League, two in the World Cup.
He has one Champions League trophy more than Buslje. The two won the 2006 CHL with Jug together, but Jokovic was part of Pro Recco’s winning team in 2015 and Jug’s squad that clinched the trophy in 2016. Shortly before the Tokyo Games, he returned to Jug.
Paulo Obradovic (35) debuted for Croatia in 2009. The most valuable trophy in his treasury is the gold won at the 2012 Olympic Games. Besides the Olympic title, he has four medals at the World Championships (silver and three bronzes), three in the World League (silver and two bronzes), the title of the European champion in 2010. Obradovic wasn’t called up for the national team after 2015, but he returned to the Croatian team this year and played at the Tokyo Olympics. It turned out that the Games was his last competition under the national flag.
Like Buslje, he was part of teams that won the Champions League twice (Jug in 2016 and Olympiacos in 2018). Since the start of the current season, Obradovic has been playing for Enka Istanbul.
Luka Loncar (34) is the only of these four players who didn’t “grow up ” in Jug’s water polo school. He was born in Zagreb and started playing water polo in Mladost. Still, he has achieved a lot of success playing for Jug and won the 2016 Champions League with the Dubrovnik-based club. Loncar became a regular member of the national team in 2013. Representing Croatia, Loncar won 10 medals at FINA and LEN competitions: an Olympic silver (2016), one gold, one silver, and two bronze medals at the World Championships, bronze at the European championships, three medals in the World League, and one at the World Cup.
Loncar was the Champions League winner in 2016 as a player of Jug. This summer, he left Jug and moved to Pro Recco.
However, the list of Croatian water polo stars, who retired after the Olympics, maybe still hasn’t been completed. Centre-forward Josip Vrlic will decide on his future career in the national team after talks with head coach Ivica Tucak.
In any case, a new generation of Croatian water polo players is entering the international stage. It will have two big challenges in 2022 – the World Championships in Fukuoka and the European Championships in Split.
Ivica Tucak announced that Croatia’s coaching staff had been changed. Sandro Sukno and Mile Smodlaka won’t be his assistants in the following period, because both will have a lot of duties as head coaches of ambitious clubs. Sukno is Recco’s coach, while Smodlaka guides Jadran Split. New assistant coach is Zoran Bajic (Mladost Zagreb)
More articles about post-Olympic retirements