They've seen the photos and Olympic medals, but Kevin Robertson's
two boys probably won't fully appreciate their father's efforts until
they watch next year's Olympic Games on television.
Alan, 7, and Chris, 5, are old enough now to play their own sports,
and, to a degree, understand what winning and losing means.
"It'll be fun," Robertson said, referring to those upcoming golden
moments with his sons, when he can share his Olympic experiences between
commercials during NBC's coverage of the 2000 Summer Games at Sydney,
Robertson, a two-time Olympian and silver medalist for the U.S. water
polo team, can tell of the thrill of victory and agony of defeat.
Robertson packed a lot into a small package at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds,
serving as the Olympic team's "orchestrator" in 1984 under U.S. Coach
"(Robertson) was extremely quick and he led our counterattack," said
Nitzkowski, who compared him to former Spanish scoring sensation Manuel
Estiarte. "Kevin could see the whole field, and that's a lot like
Estiarte. Kevin didn't possess a powerful (throwing) arm, but he really
had quickness, and quickness is tough to pick up, even for the best
"(Robertson) was a kid who loved to play water polo. He was just one
of those naturals."
In '84, the heavily favored U.S. team earned the silver medal, as
Yugoslavia won the gold based on goal differential, then at the 1988
Seoul Games under U.S. Coach Bill Barnett, Team USA finished second again
to Yugoslavia, after upsetting the Soviet Union in the semifinals.
Under Barnett in '88, Robertson played on the Olympic team under his
mentor as a youth (along with Ted Newland) and former coach at Newport
A left-hander who grew up playing many different sports, Robertson was
the CIF Southern Section 4-A Player of the Year in 1975 and '76, sharing
the honor in the autumn of '75 with teammate Frank Anderson as the
Sailors captured the CIF 4-A championship, beating Sunny Hills in the
In Robertson's senior year, the Tars lost to Sunny Hills in the CIF
4-A title game, but in his first year in college at UC Berkeley,
Robertson returned to the gold-medal stand as the Golden Bears won the
A two-time NCAA All-American, Robertson also led Cal to NCAA runner-up
finishes in 1978 and '80.
Modest and low-keyed, Robertson played on various levels of the U.S.
national water polo team from 1977, when he graduated from Newport
Harbor, to 1988. "I loved playing and enjoyed the competition, but
there's no career in water polo, so it was time to go on to different
things," Robertson said in June 1996.
Robertson, who married Newland's daughter, Trish, and lives with his
family in Danville, is director of sales for a new-home builder in
An East Bay resident since moving north to attend Cal, Robertson, 40,
is the latest honoree in the Daily Pilot Sports Hall of Fame, celebrating
"To have the chance to compete against both the best players in the
U.S. and the best players in the world, that's what means the most to
me," Robertson said Monday, reflecting on his athletic highlights. "In
our sport, (the Olympics are) the highest level we can achieve. There's
no professional water polo, so there's nothing above and beyond (the
Robertson, an Olympic teammate of former Newport Harbor standout James
Bergeson, thought the '88 Olympics in Korea were "a little more
interesting because they weren't in LA" and the squad wasn't targeted
with the favorite's label.
Once referred to by Nitzkowski as the "Magic Johnson" of the '84
Olympic team, Robertson was also an excellent passer who rarely came out
of the water. He would've played in 1980 Olympics, as well, but the U.S.
boycotted the Moscow Games that year.
"Kevin's a world-class athlete," Barnett once said of his top driver.
Robertson, a member of the winning U.S. team at the 1979 Pan American
Games, started swimming at age 6, while enjoying baseball and basketball.
"I drifted toward water polo when I got older," said Robertson, who began
playing age-group polo for Newland in the seventh grade. "I loved sports
more than anything else, and I just loved playing water polo."