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This interview is part of the exclusive Yahoo series 'How To Raise An Olympian', in which we speak to Olympic stars and their parents to get a unique insight into what it takes to raise an elite athlete. Watch the full interview above - and for more see the links at the bottom of the page.
[Please press the Closed Caption 'CC' button on the video above for English subtitles]
Sport has been an important part of Bea Ortiz's life from a very young age - but her parents never imagined that she would become an elite athlete.
She started out as a gymnast and combined it with her studies until she was 10. However, her two brothers played water polo, and the middle child in the Ortiz family was eventually drawn to the sport, which has a strong tradition in her hometown of Rubi in Barcelona.
That meant her parents’ visits to the pool became a daily routine.
“The organisation was difficult because first my wife would take one to the pool, then I would go to pick them up," says David Ortiz. "But my wife would then have to go back to drop off another one. In the end, we had to make three or four trips a day to get all three of them to the pool and back, chalking up over 20km every day”.
Nonetheless, David and Lola Ortiz supported their child with enthusiasm, and for many years the Ortiz home was swimming in happiness. The secret? To be 100% committed. “Taking them to training and accompanying them to competitions was a pleasure, and it gave us a lot of satisfaction.
"In the end, my sacrifice as a father was to make sure they got to the pool and support them during tournaments. In addition, I was the delegate for Bea and her brothers at the Rubi Swimming Club so I travelled with them a lot, and when I went to Bea's matches, my wife had to take the two boys to their respective competitions”, explains the Spanish water polo player’s father.
First steps to elite level and a surprise call
During her first years in water polo, Bea enjoyed the sport with her friends from town. When she was 15, in the cadet category, things got more serious and the national team called her up. With that, the trips to training increased in distance, as Bea had to travel to the High Performance Centre (Centro de Alto Rendimiento, CAR) in Sant Cugat to join the Spanish national team.
Fortunately, the new pool was only 20 minutes away from her home, so she could start going on her own. “I often took the train to the CAR because my parents worked in the morning and, since I was a little older, they let me go if someone went with me. In the end, a lot of us who went to the CAR would go together and the trips were more fun. Later in the afternoon, after training, they would come to pick me up”, the number '4' on the team, trained by Miki Oca, recalls.
Clearly, everything wasn’t perfect. This was a time of sacrifice and patience for the Ortiz family, with several ups and downs. “Not making the national team and injuries were big disappointments for Bea and seeing her mood so low was very difficult for us as parents”, says Lola .
Everything changed with the selection announcement for the women's water polo team for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. To their surprise, Bea Ortiz's name was on the list. “That is my most beautiful memory. It was a very emotional moment because at first, we didn’t think they’d call her, but in the end, she was on the list. We also have very fond memories of the World Championships in Budapest in 2017 where we attended the semi-finals and the final”, recalls David.
The thrill of the first time
It was time to travel to Rio with her 12 teammates. Bea’s debut at the Olympic Games was awaiting her, but neither David nor Lola were able to travel to Brazil. Nonetheless, both were buzzing with excitement from the living room of their house in Rubi right from the opening ceremony: “I remember when the squad left Spain, and seeing our daughter during the parade in the Olympic Stadium was a thrill”.
Two days later, Miki Oca’s girls played their first match. “The minutes leading up to the first game were difficult because we left the Olympic village long before the start of the match, something that doesn't happen in normal games. That gives you a lot of time to get anxious, to think, and the truth is that I was extremely nervous”, Bea recalls.
The six-hour time difference with Rio de Janeiro didn’t keep Bea’s parents from being glued to the television every two days to watch their daughter.
“Regardless of the time, I was going to watch my daughter play. We were so proud as parents to see her play in the Games”, both parents say. Unfortunately, not everything turned out as they had imagined and, in the quarter-finals, they lost to Russia after dominating most of the match, a situation that placed them with only one foot in the running for the medals.
In the end, they had to settle for fifth place. “We were very disappointed because things had been going very well, but getting there and being so close to the medals is also a success, just like being at the Olympic Games is enough in itself”, Lola says.