Runnin’ with Rani: Olympic coach Adam Krikorian has love for the Hawaiian Islands

  • Adam Krikorian is the head coach for the USA Olympic women's water polo team. (Rani Henderson/Hawaii Sport Events)

  • The USA Olympic women's water polo team is pictured during their warmup on Sunday at the Kona Community Aquatic Center. (Rani Henderson/Hawaii Sport Events)

Adam Krikorian’s connection to the Hawaiian Islands came long before he was head coach for the USA women’s national water polo team.

As a student-athlete playing water polo at UCLA, and later, coaching the UCLA women’s and men’s water polo teams from 1999-2009, Krikorian said some of his best friends — along with many of the players he coached — were from Hawaii.

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“I’ve fallen in love with the islands,” Krikorian said. “We would train once or twice a year in Hawaii which eventually became a tradition. I just fell in love with all the Hawaiian Islands and the aloha spirit. I think that’s one of the reasons that I’m drawn to go back there during this time.”

Krikorian is by far one of the most decorated coaches in water polo history. As an athlete, he helped the Bruins to their first NCAA championship in 23 years (1995), and was also captain of the team for two years. He then became assistant coach to the UCLA men’s team in 1996, followed by the women’s team in 1997 before taking the helm as head coach for both teams in 1999.

During his career at UCLA, his teams won an incredible 15 national championships — 11 as a head coach, three as an assistant coach and one as a player. In 2009, he became the head coach to the USA women’s water polo team and led them to two straight Olympic gold medals in 2012 and 2016.

Krikorian, who was named the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Coach of the Games for 2016 and also inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame that same year, said he’s been to the Big Island a few times before as his brother has a house here, but this is the first time for Team USA.

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“I have been to the Big Island a few times before and have always enjoyed my time there. As everyone knows, it’s been a tough year for all of us, both physically and mentally. And there is not a better place in the world than Hawaii, to enjoy the beauty of the ocean and nature and help put your mind in the right place. It’s also been a difficult time for us as a team to connect with each other.

“This provides us a great opportunity to do just that in a beautiful setting, a safer environment, and with the overarching goal of being the strongest team in the world.”

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