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Rio 2016 Olympic Calympian: Luca Cupido, Men's Water Polo, USA

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The current Cal student is one of two Calympian (along with alum John Mann) on the Team USA Men's Water Polo squad.

Current Cal student Luca Cupido will team up with Cal alum John Mann to try to win a U.S.A. men's water polo medal in Rio.
Current Cal student Luca Cupido will team up with Cal alum John Mann to try to win a U.S.A. men's water polo medal in Rio.
Harry How/Getty Images

Luca Cupido

Sport: Men's Water Polo

Country: U.S.A.

Twitter: @LucaCupido95

Birthday: November 9th, 1995 (age 20)

Hometown: Newport Beach, California (Native of Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy)

Cal affiliation: current California Golden Bears student (rising junior)

Years at Cal: 2014 - present

Olympic appearances: 2016 Rio will be Luca's Olympic debut

Cal Achievements:

The Cal attacker scored 42 goals in his freshman season, and then added 43 goals in his sophomore campaign. Cupido was a third team All-American and a second team All-MPSF in his freshman season. He was the 2014 MPSF Newcomer of the Year.

Showing even more versatility in his sophomore year, Luca Cupido led the Bears in assists with 46 and ejections earned with 48 in addition to being 4th in goals. Leading the Bears to a 3rd place finish at the NCAA, Cupido earned first team All-NCAA tournament honor to go with first team All-American and All-MPSF honors.

International Achievements:

Despite playing for the Italian team as recently as 2013, Luca Cupido switched to Team USA. His first major impact with USA Men's National Team came in the summer of 2015 when he was a part of the Gold winning squad at the Pan Am games.

More recently, Luca Cupido has also helped Team USA to win the FINA Intercontinental Tournament, when he scored the tournament winning goal just before the end of the regulation.

From his USA Water Polo profile, here is the full list of Luca Cupido's International achievements.

With USA:

2016 FINA WORLD LEAGUE SUPER FINAL, HUIZHOU, CHINA, 2ND PLACE
2016 FINA INTERCONTINENTAL TOURNAMENT, YOKOHAMA, JAPAN, 1ST PLACE
2015 FINA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS, KAZAN, RUSSIA, 7TH PLACE
2015 PAN AMERICAN GAMES, TORONTO, CANADA, 1ST PLACE
2015 FINA WORLD LEAGUE SUPER FINAL, BERGAMO, ITALY 4TH PLACE
2015 FINA INTERCONTINENTAL TOURNAMENT, CORONA DEL MAR, CA, US, 3RD PLACE
2014 FINA WORLD CUP, ALMATY, KAZAKHSTAN, 4TH PLACE

With Italy:

2013 FINA JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, SZOMBATHELY, HUNGARY, 1ST PLACE
2012 FINA WORLD YOUTH WATER POLO CHAMPIONSHIP, PERTH, AUSTRALIA, 1ST PLACE
2012 LEN JUNIOR EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP, CANET EN ROUSSILLON, FRANCE, 1ST PLACE

More on Luca and his Rio Outlook:

Luca Cupido is the younger brother of former Cal Men's Water Polo player Giacomo, who Luca listed as his role model. Cupido is a US-Italy dual citizen. His grandmother and mother were born in San Francisco, but his Italian immigrant grandfather and grandmother moved his mother to Italy when she was only 13 years old. Luca's father is born in Sienna, Italy.

Good day with this old lady

A photo posted by Luca Cupido (@l__cupido) on

With Luca Cupido already excelling in the club water polo scene (Luca plays for RN Camogli) and being a star on the Italian junior national team, how did Team USA manage to get a player of his caliber away from Italy? Team USA have the high academic reputation of Cal to thank for that. At age 18, Luca Cupido made the tough decision to move to the U.S. to be able to get a top notch education while also play top level water polo. In the Italian system, he would have to either turn pro in water polo or go to school full time. For his senior year of high school, Luca and his mother moved to Newport Beach.

The OC Register has this great story on Luca's move to the United States.

"Well, it wasn't an easy decision to make," said Cupido, 18. "I thought (about) it a lot and discussed it with my family too. It was difficult because I was leaving my family, friends (and) a secure environment. But I wanted to come to the U.S. to have the opportunity to attend a high academic college and at the same time play water polo."

Luca made an immediate impact at Newport Harbor High School.

Home games were packed. There was more energy in the crowd, Lynn said.

"You had 9-year old kids running around waving an Italian and USA flag," Lynn said. "People had ‘I Love Luca' poster boards. We had referees, coaches and random people popping in saying, ‘I just want to see this guy play.' He had his own fan club."

On a team with only one other senior, Cupido provided much-needed leadership. Lynn would often allow Cupido to speak to the team before each game. During games, Cupido, because of his vast experience, served as a player-leader in the water.

Since his older brother Giacomo played at Cal from 2010-13, Luca followed Giacomo's footstep to Cal to fulfill his dream of getting both a top notch education but also to play water polo at a high level. After sitting out one year due to international rule, Luca Cupido finds his way onto the US National team.

The Daily Cal wrote about Luca Cupido before his Sophomore season.

Filling this role would effectively make Cupido the team's main star — the player who, when the shot clock is winding down, is thrown the ball and forced to make something happen. The player who, when the other team is making a run, is the one who needs to get his team back on track by making a big defensive or offensive play. The player who, at the end of big games, is the one fans will shower either with acclaim or blame.

To take advantage of his expanded and crucial role, Cupido will need to get even better. The game should come to more him easily with another year to fit into and master head coach Kirk Everist's system. The second year in a system often proves to be a big one for athletes. It is the time when they can most focus on perfecting their skills to thrive in a system, rather than simply learning the basics as they must do in their first year. And this is a system in which Cupido can truly thrive.

Luca did a Q&A with NBCOlympics.com.

How influential were your parents in your athletic career?

My family has been very influential in my athletic career, because I received my passion for water polo both from my dad who played water polo in Italy and from my brother Giacomo who played water polo first in Italy then at Cal Berkeley like me. My parents always supported me and followed me in all my competitions throughout the world.

On Team USA, Luca Cupido will join 2x Calympian John Mann to try to win a medal in Rio. Cupido plays the position of the attacker in the pool. Not too surprisingly, the US Men's Water Polo team is full of Pac-12 players. Of the 13 players on Team USA, there are 4 Stanford athletes, 2 UCLA athletes as well as 1 USC student in addition to the two Golden Bears. The other members include one high school player, 2 Pepperdine, and 1 Pacific player. Pepperdine and Pacific are also in the MPSF for Water Polo collegiately.

USA is in Group B with Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, and Montenegro. I am sure Luca Cupido knows a bunch of the players on the Italian team. Cupido was offered a place on the Italian National Team but decided that the travel to Italy for practices would have been unpractical. Four out of the six teams in both groups will advance to the knockout stage. Team USA is expected to make the Top 8 (knockout stage) and maybe make a deep run if the draws are favorable.

Good luck to Luca and Team USA and GO BEARS!