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Two Sun Devils are Olympic hopefuls for Canada's water polo team

Water polo athletes Alison Cameron and Blaire McDowell are chasing olympic dreams with Team Canada

The ASU water polo team competes in a game against UCSB at Mona Plummer Aquatic Center in Tempe, Arizona, on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017.

The ASU water polo team competes in a game against UCSB at Mona Plummer Aquatic Center in Tempe, Arizona, on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017.

Two Sun Devils on the ASU women's water polo team are Olympic hopefuls — but not for Team USA.

Sophomore attacker Alison Cameron and junior attacker Blaire McDowell, both from Canada, have been called back home to train on Canada's water polo senior national team, a team that often serves as a pipeline to the country's Olympic team.

Before coming to ASU, Cameron competed in numerous Canadian National Championships and Western Canadian Championships since 2014. She was named the MVP at the 16U Canadian National Championship Finals in 2017. McDowell was named the MVP for the 19U championship that same year. 

Now the two are in Montreal training with the senior national team and other Olympic hopefuls.

“One of my big goals is to play in the 2024 Olympics. When I got invited to this, I was very excited because it is a big stepping stone towards that,” Cameron said. "It’s nice to work with the girls that I'll be playing with in 2024."

This year differs from the previous in regards to building Olympic squads. With the Summer Olympics being moved to 2021, 2020 has become a fifth year for building an olympic team to compete in the upcoming games. 

However, 2021 is still the first year to start building for 2024. 

Todd Clapper, ASU's water polo head coach, said the coaching staff is always looking to recruit players who were on the radars of national teams, and both Cameron and McDowell played at the youth level for Team Canada. 

“It’s really important to us to have players in their national pipelines and help them develop so that people see this as an opportunity to advance your chances of an olympic games,” Clapper said. “One of the things we want to not only have our players have success here, but also this being a launching pad for olympic dreams."

The water polo program competes in the top conference, the Collegiate Water Polo Association, giving the Sun Devils exposure to high-level competition. In 2019, ASU’s water polo team rose as high as No. 5 in national rankings and spent the entire season ranked in the conference's top 25.

Along with the advantages of playing for ASU, Cameron and McDowell have more opportunities to play with Team Canada. A number of players have or are expected to retire within the next few years, opening spots up for Sun Devils to get their opportunity. 

“I think both Alison and Blaire have a really good shot at taking the next step after this next year's Olympics,” Clapper said. 

With the ability to study remotely, Cameron is able to train in Montreal and continue her education at ASU. Her classes have allowed her to watch lectures after they are live, allowing her flexibility to train and find time for school work around training. 

For McDowell, she has recently returned to campus to focus on school and her new leadership role on ASU's water polo team.

"I wanted to focus on school and also because I felt it would be nice to be back here with the team especially because we have new players," McDowell said. "And I'm a bit older on the team now, so I have more of a leadership role."

McDowell hopes to join Team Canada by the end of November. As of now, she is finishing her quarantine after traveling from her hometown in Canada and will start training with ASU afterwards.

Both Cameron and McDowell are striving toward a chance to be named to Canada's senior national team after training and be amongst experienced olympic athletes.

"I'm looking forward to being mentored by the older girls who are on the senior team right now, they have so much experience, they've played for various influential teams," McDowell said. "I think it would be cool to learn more from them and be reintroduced into the national team system." 

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