Tony Azevedo may be more than 6,200 miles from home, but when he gets into the pool in Rio de Janeiro on Friday, it will be like a home game.
The U.S. men’s water polo captain, who was born in the Brazilian city, will have a slew of people cheering him on from both countries as the team takes on Croatia. Many of them will be family members who are getting the opportunity to watch him play live for the first time in his career.
“It’s so exciting, and I am so blessed,” Azevedo, who is participating in his fifth Olympic Games, told Fox News Latino recently. “All my cousins, aunts and uncles will be watching me play for the first time.”
At a Glance
Name: Tony Azevedo
Discipline: Water polo
Begins competition: USA v. Croatia, Sat. 8/6
“They will be cheering for the Brazilian teams, and then for the Brazilian on the U.S. water polo team,” he added.
The 34-year-old is going into his fifth Olympics, a record for the team, having won a silver at the 2008 Beijing Games, but missed out at medaling in London. The oldest – and most experienced – member of the U.S. team said it’s pretty surreal to be called up again alongside teammates who are 17 years younger.
“My whole life has been to be the best I can be,” he said. “It means the everything to me to play for my country.”
Azevedo first debuted with the U.S. team in 2000, scoring 13 goals in the Sydney Olympics in 2000. He has gone on to play professionally all over the world, including most recently with São Paulo's SESI water polo club.
“It’s been an amazing experience learning the language and living in Brazil,” he told FNL.
With his focus trained on Rio now, Azevedo said the U.S. team has been pushing itself to get back on the podium after finishing eighth in London. He said it would mean everything to him to get a medal around is neck in what will very likely be his last Olympic games.
“I tell the guys, ‘Don’t take anything for granted. What’s going on right now – it’s an insane moment (in your life),’” he said, adding that he hopes to take the team to some local spots for some food and relaxation.
“We will find that fine line between having fun and keeping our heads in the game,” Azevedo said.
As for what these Games mean to Brazilians, the veteran called it a “momentous” time for his birth country.
“Right now, politically, they are starting to hold people accountable for stealing,” he told FNL. “I see a better Brazil in the future, [and] Brazil is in the world’s eyes.”