The Kazakh water polo teams do not belong to the elite in the world, but the fact that both the men’s and the women’s team have qualified for the 17th FINA World Championships, deserves attention. The men’s team had a bit of luck at the draw of the group stage, but they will still have to fight hard to go through to the next round.
Many people think water polo life in Kazakhstan started only in the early 90’s, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but that is not true. In the 1940’s and 50’s the development of water sports in the USSR accelerated, more and more swimming pools were built. The Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic was not an exception either, and in 1950 the first official water polo game was held between the brand new Kazakh national team and the then reigning Russian champion CDKA. The Kazakhs were defeated by 21-1…
Kazakhstan, however, did not play an important role in the very strong Soviet water polo in the 20th century, but this sport still existed in the country, so they did not need to start from zero after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Regarding the international achievements of the Kazakh team, they are a little bit two-faced. They have been performed well in continental events, finishing on the podium in every Asian Championship and Asian Games where they were present, winning the latter five times out of six occasions since 1994.
Major international competitions, however, have been a hard nut for them to crack so far. They have taken part in three Olympic tournaments and seven World Championships editions, but their only top ten finish was a 9th place at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. They finished 11th at their another two Olympics, and that is their best placement at the FINA World Championships as well (1998 and 2015).
The national team includes players of the best Kazakh team Astana, which play in the Russian Championship, having played for the semi final last season. The only exception is Srzhan Antonevich who plays for Russian silver medalist Sintez Kazan.
Water polo fans can be familiar with the name of head coach Sergey Drozdov, who won a couple of Soviet and Russian Championships as a player, and who has been serving Kazakh water polo since the 90’s, in the beginning as a player, but for many years as a coach.
For the Kazakh team it is not impossible to reach the knock out phase of the 17th FINA World Championships, since in their group only Montenegro belong to the word’s elite, but it will not be easy to win against Brazil and Canada either.
Kazakhstan men’s water polo team at the FINA World Championships
1994 — 12th place
1998 — 11th place
2001 — 12th place
2003 — Not qualified
2005 — Not qualified
2007 — Not qualified
2009 — 16th place
2011 — 13th place
2013 — 12th place
2015 — 11th place