Water PoloAlex BowenNews

U.S. Men's Water Polo Team Is a 'Steam Train Coming'

by Bob Reinert

Alex Bowen poses at a pool in Long Beach for Team USA
Team USA

On any other men’s national water polo team around the world, he would be an average-age player. At 29 years old, however, Alex Bowen is the elder statesman of Team USA.

“We constantly are one of the youngest teams in the world,” said Bowen, a 6-foot-5-inch, 220-pound wing from Santee, California. “In my tenure, we’ve always had to be that young team with a couple guys who were formative mentors.”

The U.S. team may be young, but it’s also talented. At the World Aquatics Men’s Water Polo World Cup that ended July 2 in Los Angeles, the Americans emerged from the USC pool with the bronze medal. Bowen assisted the game-winning goal by Ben Hallock with 40 seconds left in the 14-13 win over Hungary that put the U.S. on the podium.

After what appeared to be a Hungary victory in a penalty shootout, the U.S. successfully appealed a fourth-quarter officiating error and went on to win after the game was restarted with 4:24 remaining.

“We wanted to win the whole tournament, especially in front of our fans … at home,” Bowen said. “We were excited. Our emotions were high.

“I wasn’t so happy with my play … but I was satisfied enough with the result. Our ultimate goal is world championships.”

Alex Bowen poses at a pool in Long Beach for Team USA
Team USA

The U.S. men open the 2023 World Aquatics Championships on Sunday July 16, facing Kazakhstan in preliminary-round play in Fukuoka, Japan. The tournament concludes with the medal rounds on July 29. The event, typically held on odd-numbered years, is back for the second year in a row as part of the continued reshuffling of events going back to the COVID-19 postponements of 2020.

The Americans placed sixth in the 2022 world championships in Budapest, Hungary, with Bowen providing a tournament-high 21 goals. It marked the team’s best finish at the event in more than a decade. Now Bowen is eager to see the U.S. team ride the momentum gained at the World Cup right into the world championships.

“It’s a good start for us, and hopefully we can continue to stack on top of it,” he said. “We’ll see what happens there, but we’re excited, we’re working hard and we’re trying to push for a good result for world championships.”

Beyond that, Bowen is looking forward to Olympic Games Paris 2024. It would be his third Olympics. He was part of the U.S. teams that placed 10th in 2016 in Rio, then sixth in 2021 in Tokyo. Bowen scored 18 goals in Tokyo.

“We’re going to have a really good team,” Bowen said. “We’re going to be another year wiser after this, and honestly that’s huge. We’ve got room to grow. I don’t think we’ve shown all we can do. We’re making a lot of progress. We’ve gotten a lot better during my tenure.

“Our primary focus is Paris, and we’re a steam train coming out of California to run everybody over.”

Team USA Mens Water Polo Team
Team USA

Bowen is also bold enough to think about Olympic Games Los Angeles 2028.

“Playing in the Olympics in your backyard is … pretty tempting,” he said. “My sights are set on it. My family’s set on it. I’m looking forward to it, as well.”

Bowen, a first-team All-America over all four of his seasons at Stanford, where he scored more than 200 goals, credited USA Water Polo’s Olympic Development Program with the senior national team’s progress.

“The way that it’s all run is a testament to how well we’re doing now,” he said. “It’s been a lot of next guy up, next guy up, and we know who the next guy up is.”

Known as one of Team USA’s top shooters, Bowen’s role has changed over the years.

“I provide balance on the right side,” Bowen said. “I try and draw defenses as much as I can, and if they leave me alone, it’s my turn to shoot. It’s a good role. I love doing it. I get to shoot a lot.

“I get to really try and help the offense as much as I can. And then defensively, picking up post-ups and trying to pick up field blocks as much as I can.”

Bowen, who turns 30 in September, knows that he doesn’t have to carry the load these days.

“We have so many more threats, and everybody has a lot more confidence to make the step to take the shot,” Bowen said. “We’re a lot more deadly as a team.”

And Bowen, the son of a highly successful high school coach, makes himself available to younger players who can benefit from his experience.

“I always try and be open to anyone and everyone to talk about everything,” he said. “I’m always an open book to help everybody. I’m always excited to talk shop with the guys.”