San Diego to Tokyo

Team USA's Olympic Water Polo ‘Family Man'

Coronado's Jesse Smith is focused on making his 5th straight Olympics while raising a family and getting help from his patriotic community at home

NBCUniversal, Inc.

On a team full of players, most in the early 20s, many of whom are just out of college, Jesse Smith is an anomaly.

While his water polo teammates may finish a grueling training session in Torrance, near Los Angeles, and head straight to the couch for some video games or a nap, he still has a three-hour drive ahead of him back to Coronado, San Diego.

It's an opportunity, it's not a sacrifice

Jesse Smith

Such is life for the 36-year-old husband and father training for his 5th straight Olympics, all while trying to be home with his family as much as possible in the small town where he grew up.

"On my team, I'm the only one with kids, and there's another guy that's married, but he got married last year, I've been married for 12 years," said Smith who jokes about being closer in age to some of his teammate's parents.

Known for his suffocating defense in the pool, Smith is also one of the unquestioned leaders on the team looking for gold in Tokyo.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games would be his 5th straight Olympics, a feature that has only been accomplished by one other water polo player: former Team USA attacker Tony Azevedo.

You'd think after 20 years of professional water polo it might be getting old, but Smith's personality embodies the fountain of youth.

"Same novelty, I'm really excited, I'm fired up," said Smith.

Still, training for Tokyo 2020 comes with a few more complications than his 1st, the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Smith has four kids. He is active in coaching soccer, water polo, and trying to be an "involved" dad, despite traveling the world for competitions.

Smith's family often travels with him, in fact, they even lived overseas for a decade while Jesse played for a club team, but these days he's often gone for weeks at a time alone.

Lucky for the Smiths, they live in a community full of families who know a thing or two about extended business trips, or as the military calls them: deployments.

Jesse's wife, Brittany, credits the military moms in Coronado with helping her get through the weeks and months when Smith travels.

She, in turn, is there for them when their husbands deploy, bringing extra kids to practice and delivering dinners when someone gets sick.

The military has always been a big part of Smith's life. His grandparents moved to Coronado during their time in the service and his dad used to captain the hospital ship which is frequently just docked across the Bay from Tidelands Park where the kids play soccer.

"Part of that legacy of having hard-working family members dedicated to a greater purpose, I think a lot of people in the community live that," said Smith who feels like his close friends are an extension of his family

While Smith didn't follow in his family's military footsteps, he has still gotten to represent his country around the world with another strong Coronado tradition: water polo.

"It's an opportunity, it's not a sacrifice, it's an amazing unique opportunity because I have a unique skill set," said Smith.

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