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US water polo veterans ready to claim gold
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LONDON (AP) — The United States men's water polo veterans who were surprise silver medalists in Beijing are ready to claim the ultimate prize in London — Olympic gold.

The experienced team includes two four-time Olympians and four players who played in three previous games — including captain Tony Azevedo. Only three players are first-time Olympians in London.

With the clock ticking on their Olympic ambitions, Azevedo and the other veterans made a decision last year to forgo lucrative club contracts in Europe and train together as a team.

"It was a big decision on all of our parts, obviously playing overseas, and money and all of that, but all of us do this sport because we love it and we love each other and we want to win the gold," Azevedo said.

They spent seven months together in the lead up to the London Games on a six-day-a-week workout schedule.

Three days they would lift weights for two hours in the morning quickly followed by two hours in the pool, and then another 2 1/2 hours in the water in the evening. The other three days, they'd train in one three-hour block.

Terry Schroeder, the coach of the squad that has played in the water polo world's marquee competitions, said that intensity and intimacy of their Olympic preparations will be key to their success in London.

"That's something that is really going to make a difference here," said Schroeder. "We have learned a lot about each other. This has given us a chance to really work through some of the issues of respect and trust and love and I think we are at a really good place going into the games."

The United States hasn't won gold in water polo since the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. Three times the Americans have finished second — in 1984 in Los Angeles, in Seoul, South Korea, four years later, and in 2008 in Beijing.

In China, the Americans cruised through the preliminary round, then beat world power Serbia in the semifinals before falling to defending champion Hungary 14-10 in the gold medal game.

The Americans open in Group B against Montenegro on Sunday.

It's a tough group that includes gold medal favorites Serbia, three-time defending Olympic champion Hungary and 2012 European Championship runner-up Montenegro.

But with a silver medal from Beijing in their back pockets, Azevedo and his teammates are confident that their extra time together this year preparing for London will have them ready to go one better than in Beijing.

"We won silver and now we all want to take the next step," said the three-time Olympian Ryan Bailey.

Azevedo, who made his Olympic debut at the 2000 Sydney Games, scored 17 goals in Beijing four years ago to lead the U.S. to a surprise silver medal-finish.

He said the squad of world-class players is ready for another surprise in London during what will be a grueling campaign in the group stage.

"Any of us in the group can win the gold," Azevedo said. "It will come down to what team is better physically and mentally, what team is willing to sacrifice more and what team wants it more."