Kami Craig is second SBHS alum to win Olympic gold

Santa Barbara High water polo coach Mark Walsh wasn’t able to watch his former star Kami Craig win a gold medal on live TV.

“Unfortunately, I was in Hungary during the game and couldn’t find the game until a replay of it the next day,” he said in an email to Presidio Sports. “I saw from the live scoring (on a computer) they were up 6-2 (in the final against Spain), so I felt pretty good about their chances of gold.”

When the Americans beat Spain 8-5 in the final at the London Olympics, Craig joined Karch Kiraly as SBHS alums to win Olympic gold medals — Kiraly won three, two on the U.S indoor volleyball team (1984, 1988) and one for beach volleyball (1996). Thalia Munro won a women’s water polo bronze medal at the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece.

“Winning a gold is amazing, but so many factors come into play,” Walsh said of Craig’s accomplishment. “I think making the Olympic team is a great achievement. Anything beyond that, like a medal, is icing on the cake.”

Gold was the only medal that mattered for Craig and the U.S. women’s water polo team. They took the silver in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics.

When Craig transferred to Santa Barbara High from Santa Ynez in 2003, Walsh saw a kid with lots of potential.

“When she started at Santa Barbara, I would have said she might make the junior (national) team. By the time she left us, she had already played with the senior team. You knew then, she was going to be very special. But I don’t think anyone knew she would become one of the best centers in the world and be so humble and gracious about it.”

He went on to say that Craig’s achievement is an inspiration to young girls in the Santa Barbara area

“I think it is great for the Santa Barbara community of young girls polo players to see someone from our club (Santa Barbara Aquatics Club) play in the Olympics.” I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a couple of new Santa Barbara girls in 2016.”

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