Sport: Women's water polo
Birthday: September 9th, 1993 (age 22)
Hometown: Eger, Hungary
Cal affiliation: current California Golden Bears student-athlete (will be a redshirt junior in 2017)
Years at Cal: 2014-present
Olympic appearances: 2012 London (Hungary lost the Bronze medal match, Antal lead the Hungarian team with 12 goals overall)
(In most of these photos from their time with the Hungarian team, both Dora Antal and Anna "Nusi" Illes are in them. Antal is the blonde in the photos.)
A prolific scorer since she steps in to the pool in Berkeley, Dora Antal scored 75 goals in her freshman year in 2014 - the 2nd highest total ever by a Cal freshman and the 4th highest total in program history. To the surprise of no one, she earned the 2014 MPSF Newcomer of the Year as well as ACWPC First Team All-American honor.
Antal followed up her successful freshman year with a 69 goal sophomore campaign to again earning the ACWPC First Team All-American honor again. She shall continue to climb up the Cal women's water polo record book when she returns from her Olympic sabbatical year.
To prepare for the Olympic (and train with her home team to qualify for Rio), Antal and fellow Hungarian Calympian Anna Illes as well as Cal's Spanish Calympian Roser Tarrago have all taken a redshirt for the 2014-15 season. The trio are the top 3 scorers for the Golden Bears and will build on their Olympic experience to make the Bears a national title contender in 2017 and 2018.
Dora Antal has a long list of international experience, being the center piece for a water polo powerhouse nation like Hungary (although their men's national program is much more competitive). Thanks to her scoring, Antal was the MVP of the 2012 U-19 European Championships when Hungary took silver.
She graduated onto the 2012 London Olympic team for Hungary where she was the co-team leader in goals with 12, making 12 out of 32 shots for a 37% shooting percentage and tied for 5th most in the entire Olympic. More impressively, Dora Antal scored the tying goal via a steal at the end of the regulation of the Bronze medal match against Australia (it was pretty incredible since the Australians thought that they had won the match, check out the video in the link earlier); the Hungarian team fell in OT though.
Since London, Dora Antal had become one of the face of the Women's Water Polo team in Hungary (where the sport is very popular). she led Hungary to a Bronze at the 2013 Barcelona World Championships. In European Championships, she was a part of the 2012 Eindhoven and 2014 Budapest Bronze winning team.
Most recently in January of this year, Dora Antal helped Hungary to a 9-7 win over The Netherlands to win the European Championships. That win (but really the top 3) clinched the Rio Olympic berth for the Hungarian team.
Why are these ladies smiling? No reason...other than THEY ARE GOING TO THE OLYMPICS!!!! Our own Anna Illes and Dora Antal helped Hungary beat The Netherlands today in the finals of the European Championships, earning an automatic berth in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio! Congrats to Nusi and Dodo. We are so very proud of you!!!
More on Dora and her Rio outlook:
Like Missy Franklin and her Cal Women's Water Polo teammate Roser Tarrago, Dora Antal will be a repeat Olympian at Rio but a first time "Calympian" as these three women had no ties (yet to even commit) to Cal in the summer of 2012. Incidentally, Dora at 19 years old was the youngest women's water polo player at the 2012 London games.
Dora Antal plays the position of the "driver" which is a perimeter player who is positioned on the side but looks for opportunities to swim toward the goal to score (like someone who is driving to the hoop in basketball).
Her FINA profile says that Dora started to play water polo at age 5. The Daily Cal did a very nice feature story on Dora Antal back in 2014. She was inspired to become an Olympian after watching the 1996 Atlanta Olympic games. More from that article,
For Antal, it all started in 1996, when she was only 3 years old. Watching the 1996 Olympic Games with her father, Peter, she knew exactly what she wanted when she watched her country play — her dream took shape.
"It's my biggest dream in sports," Antal says. "I want to win the Olympic Games."
The face of the Hungarian women's water polo team after her 2012 London heroics, Dora chose to study and play in the U.S.
Although the competition level isn't necessarily more elite, American collegiate water polo features players from all over the world, whereas Hungarian water polo club teams only consist of the best players within its borders. In order to prepare herself for Olympic competition, Antal's best course of action was to expose herself to an unfamiliar environment.
"At Cal or in the United States, she can collect a lot of new experiences — other people, other teams, other coaches," Peter Antal says. "The Hungarian championship is not the best for a woman because there are a lot of junior teams who play like other teams, and the members of the national team play outside of Europe."
Prior to the Olympics, Antal already had numerous college offers. But the one she wanted came after 2012's disappointing finish.
"After the Olympic Games, (Cal head coach) Rich (Corso) called me," Antal says. "I was in a training camp. And I just went back to my room, and I just saw in my screen a missed call from Berkeley, Calif. And I was like ‘Oh my God!' "
Although she has always had the skills, Antal needed to concentrate on the mental and preparation aspect of the game. And Cal allowed her to hone those skills, but living 6,000 miles away from home came with consequences.
Having won the 2016 European Championships means that Dora Antal, along with fellow Cal Bear Anna Illes, and the Hungarian national team are a good bet to medal in Rio. The Stanford-heavy U.S.A. team is likely the heavy favorite to win the Gold again, but the Hungarian team may be able to challenge them.
Regardless of how far the Hungarian team advances (there are 5th and 7th place matches so everyone plays 6 matches in Rio), expect to see Dora Antal's name near the top of the goals scored list for the Rio games.
These two ladies got it done for the Hungarian National Team today at the European Championships. Dora Antal had three goals and Anna (Nusi) Illes anchored the defense as Hungary beat Greece 12-7. Also, Cal's Roser Tarrago (Ru) scored SIX goals as Spain beat France 18-4! The Bears are being heard all around the globe!
A total of 8 teams are in the women's water polo event in Rio and separated into two groups. The Hungarian team is in the same group as the United States, China, and Spain (featuring Calympian Roser Tarrago). Since the knock-out stage features all 8 teams, the prelim round will just determine the seeding.
Hungary faces China to open their Rio games on August 9th.
The battle of Calympians between Hungary and Spain will take place on August 11th.
The Hungary vs. U.S.A. showdown is scheduled for August 13th.
The knockout stage starts on August 15th with the semi and final on the 17th and 19th, respectively.
I think the odds are great that Dora Antal can lead the Hungarian team to a medal. Hopefully, she can then use that momentum to lead the California Golden Bears to the first Women's Water Polo NCAA championship in program history.
Good luck to Dora in Rio and GO BEARS!