Barbara Bujka made the Olympic women’s water polo dream team but feels only emptiness and anger at missing out on a medal. She isn’t giving up though and already has her sights on Tokyo in 2020. She also hopes that the women’s water polo team can build upon its fourth place in Rio come next year’s World Championship.
One of the most enduring images of the women’s water polo team from Rio is of Barbara Bujka comforting teammate Rita Keszthelyi following the team’s defeat against Russia which saw them miss out on bronze. We caught up with Bujka after the match and when asked where she had the strength to comfort the others when she herself was suffering, she replied that “I felt at the time that I had to do it; I simply followed my heart. Love cures all as they say, and I loved being part of the team in Rio”.
As to how she felt personally, she said:
“I’m not the happiest person in the world, that’s for sure” she said. “I feel emptiness; emptiness and anger. It was the most brutal, the most painful way to lose out on a medal; we were seconds away, for a time I couldn’t process it all. If I’m being honest I still can’t. No matter how close we were to a medal I never for once felt during the match that one was in my possession. People say that you only begin to really appreciate things once you’ve lost them. This is how I look at it: we lost, that’s all. It’s another question as to how much disappointment and anger the defeat causes, because it didn’t have to happen the way it did. You can’t let a two goal lead slip at the end at this level: all this proves is that we didn’t deserve to win. I can search for reasons but the fact is they didn’t win the match, we lost it. This is where the anger stems from”.
Bujka speaks of the being a huge difference between third and fourth place. “Back at home a medal would be much more acceptable than coming fourth and that’s understandable. Many have already talked about next year’s World Championship in Budapest but it’s too early; I don’t want to think about that just yet. I need to digest what happened at the Olympics and also rest”.
As to the Games themselves, Bujka believes that “many have talked about how many problems there were but everyone enjoyed it. The Brazilians are direct, relaxed. I’m not saying it was a perfect Olympics but if people accept things which aren’t worth getting worked up about then it was good. The competition itself didn’t bring any surprises; the top seven sides know each other inside out, it’s difficult to surprise anyone”.
Looking to the future, our last question before the team left Rio for home was about Tokyo 2020. The reply?
“A fighter keeps battling and doesn’t give up until they’ve reached their goal”.