July 13, 2012
BERKELEY -Add another name to the list of Cal athletes competing at the 2012 Olympics as Aleksa Saponjic, who will be a sophomore on the Golden Bears' men's water polo team this fall, has been selected to compete for his native Serbia in London.
After an outstanding freshman campaign in which he garnered honorable mention All-America honors, Saponjic helped Serbia win the gold medal at the 2012 European Championship in January with a 9-8 win over Montenegro at Pieter van den Hoogenband Swim Stadium in Eindhoven, Netherlands.
Serbia's European Championship qualified it for the 2012 Olympics and was the country's first European title since winning the 2006 championship hosted in Belgrade, Serbia. Saponjic, 20, is from Belgrade and is the youngest member of the Serbian National Team. His older brother, Luka, was a standout for the Bears from 2008-11 and was a 2011 honorable mention All-American as well.
"This is a tremendous honor for Aleksa, we are all extremely proud of him and wish him the best of luck in London," said Cal coach Kirk Everist, a member of the 1992 and 1996 USA Olympic Teams. "It is very difficult to make the Olympics and to do it at his age is a testimony to his ability, desire and work-ethic. Aleksa is the type of player who will fill whatever role he needs to in order to make his team successful and this is a big reason why he will soon be an Olympian. I know he will fight very hard to help his team in London, we look forward to watching him compete and we look forward to getting him back at Cal for the fall season."
Aleksa Saponjic is used to high level international competition. Along with his brother Luka, he was a member of the Serbian National Team that captured the gold medal at the 2011 World University Games in Shenzen, China, finishing with six goals and a team-high nine assists during the tournament. Aleksa Saponjic also helped Serbia to a gold medal at the 2011 World Junior Championships in Volos, Greece.
As a freshman at Cal in 2011, Saponjic was third on the team in scoring with 30 goals in 22 matches and tallied 22 assists and 18 steals.
Saponjic joins John Mann (2003-06) and former women water polo players Elise Windes (2004-07) and Heather Petri (1997-99, 01), as members of the Cal family who will be competing in the water polo arena at the London Olympics. Mann will be competing in his first Olympics for Team USA, while Windes was a member of the 2008 USA Olympic Team and Petri will be participating in her fourth Olympic Games for the United States.
The Bears open the 2012 collegiate season hosting the Golden Bear Invitational, Sept. 1-2 at Spieker Aquatics Complex. On Saturday, Sept. 1, Cal starts the year versus Long Beach City College, coach by former Bear standout and Olympian Chris Oeding, at 8 a.m., followed by an Alumni Game at 9:30 a.m. On Sunday, Sept. 2, Cal hosts Santa Clara at 8 a.m. and Pacific at 1 p.m.