By Keaton Hills
Daniel Gonzalez Delgado loved getting the chance to reunite with past Ottawa Titans teammates while competing for the Ontario under-19 men’s team at Water Polo Canada’s national championships outdoors from July 5-9 at Parc Jean-Drapeau in Montreal. He just wishes they’d had a bit happier ending.
After drowning their opponents’ net with goal after goal en route to six straight victories by no less than nine, Team Ontario was upset by host Quebec in the championship game, which was decided in a shootout.
“For the entire week, we had been a heavy favorite,” noted Gonzalez Delgado, who now plays for the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. “We had played Quebec earlier in the week and we beat them by nine goals, which is a pretty good margin, so then when we played them again in the finals, they were really driven and really prepared and they played exceptionally well.
“We went to a penalty shootout and we lost, so everyone was really disappointed in themselves and just in the fact that we had smoked this team earlier and now here they are in the most important game being able to play level with us.”
It was disappointing for Ontario to wind up in a shootout in the final, and the pressure was certainly felt with the gold medal on the line.
“I think it’s really all about getting in your own head,” explained Gonzalez Delgado. “One of my friends who unfortunately missed kept on repeating stuff like ‘I can’t miss, I can’t miss, I can’t miss,’ and that kind of psyched him out, so he ended up missing.
“When I’m in a high pressure situation, I make my mind go blank, I’m not thinking of anything at all and just kind of let my body do what it’s been doing. I’ve been training for nine years, so I let the muscle memory take care of it.”
Receiving a silver medal stung, but Gonzalez Delgado nevertheless enjoyed his week competing alongside many friends from Ottawa after moving to Toronto last fall to study computer engineering.
“It was a great time,” signalled Gonzalez Delgado. “It was a really great chance to play with all of my teammates that I grew up with one last time, so I was really happy about that.”
Also part of Team Ontario’s lineup were past Titans teammates Liam Sterne and Andrej Gavric, who both helped Canada to a 10th-place finish at last year’s youth world championships (Gonzalez Delgado was an alternate for that squad), as well as Jackson Taylor and George Huang.
Ottawa’s David Hart was an assistant coach for Team Ontario, while the head coach was Gonzalez Delgado’s former Titans coach Andras Szeri.
“I think it was pretty helpful just because for me and my teammates from that club, the coach knows us as players, so he knows what we’re good at, what we’re not good at, where we play,” highlighted Gonzalez Delgado. “Basically he didn’t need a debrief or a trial test from us.”
Gonzalez Delgado earned another big prize earlier this season. In the fall, he helped the powerhouse Varsity Blues to their sixth consecutive Ontario University Athletics title, blasting the Carleton Ravens 24-4 in the final.
Each competition setting provided a different dynamic.
“At university, I was the youngest one because I’m a first year, whereas in my club, I’m the oldest one or one of the oldest ones there,” outlined Gonzalez Delgado. “At club, I’m a leader, I coach the other kids, kind of help them figure out what they’re doing, whereas at university it’s kind of reversed.”
Gonzalez Delgado will return for his second year at U of T this fall.
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