Fort Lauderdale – July 23 - Although he never won an Olympic medal, a recent visit to the International Swimming Hall of Fame brought back many wonderful memories and tears to the eyes of Argentinian water polo legend, Osvaldo Codaro. He was 17 when he played in his first Olympic Games in London, in 1948 and was a player or coach for over 50 years. At the 1960 Games in Rome, he was selected as one of the world’s best to play in an exhibition during the closing FINA Gala that pitted the Americas against the Europeans – and the Americas came out on top 4 – 2. But without doubt, his best memory was winning the water polo gold medal at the 1st Pan American Games, which were held in his hometown of Buenos Aires, in 1951. The Peron’s, Eva and Juan were in power in those days and the glamorous couple took a great interest in the water polo team. To prepare for the Games, the Water Polo Team had a training camp for 45 days, something almost unheard of at the time.
“Every morning at 6 A.M. crowds would start to form outside of Eva Peron’s office at the Palace, hoping to see her,” Codaro recalled. “She was famous for helping the poor, which is why she was so loved by them. Yet she and her husband often found the time to come and visit our training and see how we were doing. I was twenty-years old and Eva Peron was thirty-three. She was so beautiful. It is still hard to believe she would be dead the next year.”
“We were a very young team but we didn’t feel pressure to win,” he said, “because just being a part of the event was special and playing in front of the Peron’s and 7,000 spectators every night was so exciting.”
Codaro and his teammates cruised past the USA by a score of 9 -2 before beating arch- rival Brazil to win the Gold medal. Argentina repeated as champions again in Mexico City at the 2nd Pan American Games in 1955, but nothing could top the experience of 1951.
In his prime, Codaro was one of the biggest, at 6 foot 4 and 220 lbs., and best center forwards in the world. Although hobbled by arthritis, slightly hunched and requiring a cane to walk, you still get the sense of his size when you shake his enormous hand and see his size sixteen shoe.
Who was the greatest player of all-time? “No question – Tamas Farago!”