It was a strange moment for Victoria Chamorro, as she treaded water in goal for her water polo team during a game last March in Hawaii.

"I had the ball, and I had to pass the ball for the counter, but everyone in the pool was my teammate!" she recalls.

The freshman was in goal for the USC Trojans, but she was facing her other team – the Brazilian national water polo team.

Earlier this year, she again played opposite her Brazilian teammates. This summer, however, Chamorro will be on their side at the Olympics.

Los Angeles may be over 6,000 miles from Rio de Janeiro, but Chamorro is not the only Brazilian-born Olympian in Southern California. Fellow water polo player Tony Azevedo and swimmer Thiago Pereira have also made themselves at home in the area. Each will share in the unique experience of competing in the Olympics in their home country this summer. Each has taken a different road to Southern California.

Azevedo was also born in Rio, but he didn't grow up there. He has spent almost his entire life in Southern California.

The 34-year-old has been playing for the United States men's national team since he was 17. His time with the team goes even further back, though. Ahead of the 1996 Games in Atlanta, he would tag along with his father, Ricardo Azevedo, who was then coaching the Americans.

"I used to sit there on the pool deck doing my homework and then just fell in love with the game," he says.

Azevedo has represented the U.S. in each of the last four Olympics and is arguably the greatest water polo player in American history. He and the U.S. won a silver medal in 2008 in Beijing.

Still, Azevedo feels connected to his native country of Brazil.

"For me this Olympics means everything," he says. "I feel like I'm so lucky to represent my country as well as to play in front of my other country."

Azevedo has actually been playing professionally in Brazil since 2013. The country's water polo league may not be as competitive as leagues in other countries, but after playing for several years in Europe, it's been a dream come true for him.



“I never thought there would be the opportunity, because for us [water polo players] to make money we have to play professionally overseas,” he says. “Brazil got money coming in to the Olympics and I was so excited to finally go home and play in my hometown.”

Tony Azevedo (Photo Credit: Brian Bencomo)
Tony Azevedo (Photo Credit: Brian Bencomo)

While it may not be the most competitive environment for Azevedo in Brazil, his presence may help the development of the sport in the country. Andre Avallone, his coach with SESI water polo club in Sao Paolo, appreciates the fact that Azevedo has been going around the country teaching kids about the sport.

"I have a big, big respect for Tony because he really helps us to improve the water polo here in Brazil," he says.

Avallone says that he'll watch with pride as his player and friend competes this summer.

"I will be with the Brazilian team but also with the Tony Azevedo team," he says. "Not with the United States, but with Tony Azevedo."

Azevedo could have been on the Brazilian squad this summer. He says that Brazil made him a lucrative offer to try to get him to play on their side for Rio 2016. It would have been a huge coup, of course, to snag the American water polo captain.



“There was never a chance that I would flip and play for Brazil,” he says. “For me to just leave the country you’ve been playing with your entire life for money is the exact opposite of what the Olympic movement is all about.”

These might be Azevedo's last Olympic Games. At 34, he can no longer be sure whether he'll be up for the 2020 Games. He says his recovery time isn't what it used to be.

Moreover, he's now a father.

"It's no more year-by-year, quadrennial-by-quadrennial, it is day-by-day," he says.

With 2020 perhaps unlikely, 2024 would seem almost impossible – unfortunate since the Games might come to Southern California. Los Angeles is bidding for the 2024 Games, along with Paris, Rome and Budapest. The IOC will make the 2024 choice in 2017.

"I'm so excited about the possibility that the Olympic Games can be here in my own town," he says, "and I would love to be involved with it as much as possible if it does happen."

Pereira, another Brazilian-born Olympian, is already involved in trying to bring the 2024 Olympics to L.A. His experience, living and training in Brazil and the United States, falls somewhere between those of Chamorro and Azevedo. Although he was born and raised in Brazil, the 30-year-old has been living and training for the past several years in LA.

Janet Evans, vice chair and director of athlete relations for the LA24 bid committee, brought him aboard the campaign.

"It's an honor to be part of the bid," he says, "because I choose to live in L.A., train here and to do all my preparation here."

Thiago Pereira (Photo Credit: Brian Bencomo)
Thiago Pereira (Photo Credit: Brian Bencomo)

Pereira started training at USC in mid-2009 ahead of the London 2012 Games. After a brief interlude in Brazil, he came back to prepare for Rio 2016.

"I love this city, I love to be here, and I love to train here," he says. "It's perfect weather – pretty similar to Brazil – and I have a nice group to train with at USC."

That group is a collection of elite international swimmers and Olympic hopefuls who train at USC with Dave Salo's renowned Trojan Swim Club.

Like Chamorro and Azevedo, Pereira eagerly looks forward to competing on the world's biggest stage in his own home country. He's already gotten a taste when he competed in the 2007 Pan-American Games in Brazil where he won multiple medals in that competition, several gold.

After winning a silver medal at the London Olympics, he hopes to equal – or better – the feat in Rio.

"I'm looking forward to go to Brazil to represent my country as best I can, and I hope to get another medal in this one," he says.

Like Azevedo, Pereira can't imagine himself competing at the 2024 Games. If the Games return to L.A., however, it seems eminently possible he'd be playing an active role, potentially alongside Azevedo. Chamorro is young enough, currently 19, that she may yet be playing once 2024 rolls around.