It was the epitome of bittersweet. Adam Krikorian’s US Women’s water polo team decimated Italy 12-5 to win a second consecutive gold medal, and broadened their impressive winning streak to 22 games, their 2016 record 42-2.
Krikorian was proud of his girls...even when they ganged up on him and threw him playfully into the pool. All was well afterward, however, when they placed all their gold medals around his neck, which must have caused at least a little spinal discomfort.
But though it was a joyous occasion, Krikorian was in grief. His older brother Blake, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and CEO of Sling Media, suffered a heart attack and died on August 3. He was 48. That same day, Krikorian held a team meeting and broke the news to his girls. Shortly thereafter, he returned to California for the funeral, and then came back to Rio. The women’s polo team, however, didn’t miss a beat. During that team meeting, Krikorian made clear that he wanted them to not worry about him and to focus on the gold. Says team captain Maggie Steffens: “He was telling us to enjoy the moment, enjoy opening ceremonies. 'Don't worry about me, you be you. This is your dream. Live it.' And here is this coach who had just been through something so traumatic.We wanted to be strong for him, but he was strong for us. That's why he's the best coach in the world in my eyes.”
Krikorian and his brother were close. Krikorian calls him “the coolest dude in the world.” He goes on to say that he takes solace in the fact that his brother would want him to continue. After the U.S.’s trouncing of Italy, each of the 13 members of the team came to him and put their medals around his neck, a tradition that the team began in London in 2012. A sign of respect. Coaches don’t receive gold medals, but the women all admire and respect Krikorian.
“We wanted to make sure that he got the medals as well,” says Steffens. “Because coaches don’t get them, and he deserves them.”
The love the team has for Krikorian and vicea versa is evident. Having a support system during a time of bereavement is vitally important. Krikorian, for our money, is the luckiest man in the world.