The Go-to Mann

Contact Saori Ezuka at [email protected]

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He's put himself in a great position to be considered for Beijing after traveling with the national team this summer," says Bears coach Kirk Everist.

Over the summer, Mann played on Team USA, which took the nation's top 14 players to compete in the FINA World League Championships.

The Olympic team trims the roster to 13 players, but there is no doubt in his coaches' minds that Mann has what it takes to make the cut.

"What comes to mind when I think of John is his competitiveness," says assistant coach Boyd Lachance. "And if he keeps working extremely hard and puts in the extra effort, he'll be in Beijing."

But Mann isn't as quick to guarantee his appearance in the summer games.

"Of course I'd love to be able to say I'm going to the Olympics," says Mann. "But it's going to be very difficult and very competitive."

Mann will be competing for the two-meter man position against such players as returning Olympians Jeff Powers and Ryan Bailey.

Both Powers and Bailey are teammates of Mann on Team USA, which feeds straight into the Olympic squad.

Many factors are considered when players are chosen for the Olympic team-some out of Mann's hands.

"It's not just talent level and ability, but also complementary things like chemistry with the teammates," says Mann.

Although Mann does not have direct control over how he would contribute to the chemistry of the national team, his past three years at Cal have shown his ability to be a team player.

"He focuses on how he can make the rest of his teammates better," says Everist of Mann's leadership in the pool.

Mann often leads the team to victory, but when the team does not fare well, he also holds himself accountable.

"He puts a lot of responsibility upon himself, and he is able to make things happen in crunch time," says Everist.

From the rocky start of his freshman campaign with the Bears to his participation on the national team as one of the youngest and most inexperienced players, Mann has always striven to keep up with the higher level of competition.

Although he saw playing time as a true freshman, it took time and experience before he became the go-to player on the squad.

"I felt the coaches didn't quite trust me in tight situations," says Mann of his first year. "I started earning that trust later that year in games by proving myself."

Even now, he knows there is always room for improvement.

"Playing over the summer opened my eyes to what it takes to make the Olympics," says Mann. "I feel like I'm very close, but at the same time, I have a lot of work to do."

The water polo standout may have gone into football if it were up to his father, who played football at Purdue.

But with water polo being the popular sport to play in his hometown of Newport Beach, Calif., Mann joined Corona del Mar High's water polo team under John Vargas, the current head coach at No. 4 Stanford.

"I think my dad would've wanted me to play football, but I think he looks back at his football career-and he loved it-but it was real hard on his body," explains Mann. "He sees my ability at water polo, and he knows the wear and tear won't be as bad."

Although Mann did not exactly follow in his father's footsteps, he has pursued his own athletic endeavors in the same fashion as his father.

"My dad taught me to be relentless and never stop," says Mann.

And Mann has no intentions of halting his water polo career, even though it may not be the most lucrative sport.

"There are no set incentives besides the Olympics. There's no major contract," says Mann. "It's purely you, doing all this training because you love it."

Olympian or not, Mann plans to play in Europe upon graduation, as there are larger professional water polo leagues overseas.

But despite all of his national and international accomplishments, Mann is just not quite satisfied with his collegiate career.

"I really want to win the NCAAs," he says.

Last year, the Bears made it to the semifinals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships, only to falter against eventual NCAA champion USC.

"In the three years that I've been here, we've placed very high, but I don't think we've accomplished what we're capable of," says Mann.

And unlike how he assesses his chances at making the Olympic team, the unofficial leader of the No. 1-ranked team in the nation says some things very confidently.

"This will be the year."

At A Glance: John Mann
Senior Utility

• Tournament MVP at 20-under National Championships this summer

• First-team All-American at Men's Senior Nationals

• First-team All-American and first-team All-MPSF as sophomore

• Led Cal with 60 goals in 2004


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