Paula Leitón: “Playing at home will make us the favorites, but we need to stay vigilant”

The youngest member of the Spanish national team, the player who has broken every precocity record in the book, Paula Leitón, is the perfect example of cautiousness and moderation. The Astralpool CN Sabadell player, the second center forward in Miki Oca’s squad, one of the crown jewels of Spanish water polo, believes the Spaniards will be the favorites to claim the title in Barcelona 2018, but need to remain watchful. The latest Europa Cup in Pontevedra is a cautionary tale of what can happen if they lose focus.

“Favorites? – she asks herself – Well, we are playing in front of a home crowd, and that will make us the favorites, but we need to give 100% and stay vigilant.” Leitón makes calculations: “There are six major European squads. It will be tough. Anyone could win, but I believe we may have the upper hand.”

She is referring to the big six continental teams, Russia, Hungary, the Netherlands, and the three Southern countries: Greece, Italy and Spain. They all conquer title after title.

Leitón is satisfied with her season so far: “Things are looking great, both for my club and the national team. We have lost two matches with Spain, against Hungary and Russia, and with Astralpool CN Sabadell we are taking part in the Final Four without having lost a single game.”

She is not jealous of her teammates’ 2014 European gold in Kazan. She made her debut in 2015, “when I was just a kid”. “I am very excited to play in front of a home crow – she admits – I wasn’t able to do so in 2013, I was in the junior squad back then. All my teammates keep very fond memories of that competition, and they even got to take the gold medal!”

The young Catalan player – she’ll be 18 next week – started as center back, but now she is Maica García’s substitute in one of the key positions of the team. “I like playing center forward, although it is a high-risk job”, claim Paula, whose idol is Maica, “the best center forward in the world, she has been my role model ever since I was a kid.”

Leitón practically lives in the CN Sabadell facilities, the club she joined two years ago after playing for CN Terrassa. She trains and studies (“I’m finishing high school through an online program; I decided to split it into three years to do it better”), and starts thinking about her future. “I would like to go to Law School – she anticipates – although my life right now revolves around water polo. And this week, Kirishi and the Final Four.”

Paula Leitón