Alessandro Campagna (ITA)
2019 Honor Water Polo Player
FOR THE RECORD: AS A PLAYER: 1992 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold; 1986 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: silver; 1994 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold; 1987 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: bronze; 1989 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: bronze; 1993 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold; AS A COACH: 2011 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold; 2014 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: bronze
He was born in Palermo, on the beautiful island of Sicily, but he grew up in Syracuse, where he began learning to swim at the age of six. Sandro, as he is affectionately known, was afraid at first, but the more time he spent in the water, the more confident he became, and he soon came to love it. At the same time, he also loved football and trained seriously in both sports.
At the age of 12, Sandro was introduced to the sport of water polo. For him, it merged the two sports he loved, and the rules of the sport came quickly to him. In the very first game in which he played, he scored three goals and was hooked! He transferred his love of swimming to water polo and never looked back.
In 1976, when Sandro was 13 years old, he watched Italy win the silver medal in water polo at the Montreal Olympic Games. It was then that he decided that one day, he too would stand on the Olympic podium, playing water polo for his country, just like his idol, ISHOF Honoree, Gianni De Magistris.
Five years later, Sandro was playing for Ortigia, in the first division of the Italian League. In a game against Florentine, and their star, Gianni DeMagistris, Sandro scored three goals. Ortigia won the game 5 to 4 and Sandro was invited to join the Settebello. Literally translated, Settebello means “beautiful seven”, an affectionate nickname the Italian water polo team earned after winning the gold medal at the 1948 London Olympic Games.
Just as his career was beginning to take off, Sandro suffered a serious injury that kept him out of the water for a year. When he returned, he helped the Settebello win the silver medal at the 1986 World Championships and Sandro was voted one of the world’s best.
Unfortunately, after finishing a disappointing seventh in Seoul in 1988, the Italian Federation turned to a foreign coach to make their team beautiful again. That coach was ISHOF Honoree, Ratko Rudic. With two Olympic gold medals for Yugoslavia to his name, Rudic brought with him a winning culture based on discipline and hard work.
The results were immediate. Behind the play of Alessandro Campagna, Italy won gold at the 1992 Olympic Games Barcelona...gold at the1993 FINA Cup in Athens... gold at the 1993 European Championships at Sheffield...and finally, the 1994 World Championships in Rome. It was an unprecedented Water polo GRAND SLAM.
Alessandro (Sandro) Campanga was one of the most complete water polo players of all time. In his professional career, he played for two clubs: The first was, Ortigia Siracusa, where he was the captain and the leading player for ten championship seasons, and the second, Roma, where he won the Coppa delle Coppe, also known as the LEN Cup Winner’s Cup and the Len Cup. The winners of the LEN Cup Winner’s Cup went on to face the European Champions in the European Super Cup.
Campagna credits his success to the four coaches he trained under during his career. To his first coach, Romolo Parodi, he credits getting his love of the game. To Gianni Lonzi, for selecting him to the national team as a young player at 18 years old. He believes Fritz Dennerlein completed him tactically, and lastly he believes Ratko Rudic made him go further mentally than he would have on his own.
Upon retirement, after accumulating 409 caps playing for the Settebello, Campagna decided to put his water polo knowledge to use in coaching. As head coach of the Italian National Team, he led Italy to the top of the podium at the 2011 FINA World Championships, they took the silver medal at the 2012 London Games, bronze at 2014 European Championships in Budapest, and bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
In May 2015, he was selected among the 100 Legends of Sport: in Italy for the Italian Walk of Fame CONI at the Foro Italico, in Roma.