WI native plays big part in club’s first-ever Olympic qualification
BY MICHAEL PIASETZKI
Perhaps of all the Canadian teams that have qualified to participate in the upcoming Summer Olympics in Beijing, the men’s water-polo squad has to arguably be the most inspirational.
That’s because Beijing will mark the first time in the program’s history a Canadian men’s water-polo team has actually qualified for an Olympic event.
One of the veterans on the squad is 28-year-old West Island native Nathaniel Miller, who has been with the national program since 1999, and since that time, has certainly seen it suffer through the worst of times and now finally enjoy the best of times. “It's hard to put into words, the feeling I had after we qualified,” said the six-foot-two, 215-pound Miller, who learned his skills with the Dollard des Ormeaux Water Polo Club. “I spent most of that evening alternating between euphoria, complete numbness, and fighting back tears. On many levels, I do believe life is about the journey more than just the destination, but at the same time, it's nearly impossible for me not to feel as though earning this Olympic berth puts a strong stamp of validation on the years of hard work, commitment and sacrifice that went into making it happen.”
Miller credited head coach Dragan Jovanovic, from the former Yugoslavia, for turning the program around. Appointed head honcho in 2004, Jovanovic immediately set about to change not just the way the team trained and played, but the entire mentality and culture of men's water polo in Canada. “The results speak for themselves,” said Miller, who moved to Calgary nine years ago to train with the national team but presently finds himself in Budva, Montenegro, where he plays in a professional water-polo league for PVK Budvanska Riviera.
As vice-captain, the oldest player and longest serving member on a Canadian team whose roster of 17 includes fellow West Island natives Devon Diggle, Justin Boyd and Jon Ruse — only 13 will start in matches at the Games – Miller admitted he sees himself as one of its leaders. “Our goal will be to finish top eight,” said Miller. “That might be too high to some observers, but then again, nobody picked up to qualify either.”