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Matthew Halajian Announces Retirement to Focus on Academic Career

(November 6, 2020 - Montreal, QC) - In October, Men’s National Team athlete Matthew Halajian announced his retirement from Water Polo Canada in order to focus on his education and pursue his master’s degree at the University of Calgary. The British Columbia native joined the Senior Men’s National Team Program in 2010 and has represented Canada at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan and the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest. Most recently, Halajian recorded 15 goals in six games, helping Canada capture a silver medal at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games.

The events of this year have altered the plans for many athletes, including Matthew Halajian. Water Polo Canada met with Matthew earlier this month to discuss his decision to retire and reflect on his time with the National Team.

“The main factor influencing my decision to retire was my acceptance to the Department of Communication, Media, and Film at the University of Calgary to complete a Master of Arts in Communication and Media Studies. I was initially accepted for fall 2019 but decided to defer my masters for a full year to pursue a berth in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and pursue the opportunity to play professionally overseas. I was able to play with Circolo Canottieri Napoli for the 2019–2020 season and had a great experience living abroad in a beautiful city and playing high-level water polo games every single week. Unfortunately, the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games by a full year meant that I would not be able to continue playing at the high-level required of National Team athletes and complete a master’s degree simultaneously; that is ok.”

Matthew Halajian added that he has fond memories of his time with Water Polo Canada and particularly cherishes the time spent with his teammates and the lifestyle of an elite athlete.

“Overall, my favourite memories, and the things I am going to miss most about playing with the Men’s National Team Program, is the daily lifestyle that I was able to have for so many years as a student athlete in Calgary. Going to practise, training hard, going to school and eating lunch with my teammates, going to classes, and then heading back to the pool in the evening is a daily schedule that I will remember and value. Most importantly, spending so much time around such great and driven people that the water polo community, and the Men’s National Team, offers, is a memory I cherish. One of my greatest memories with the Water Polo Canada Program came in August 2019 at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. While the tournament didn’t finish with the result we wanted, playing those games with such high stakes was the most fun I have ever had playing the sport. Competing at a high level, with high stakes, and doing so with a team with as many high-quality individuals as that team, is an experience I am never going to forget. I hope that the boys that are left can get the result they’re hoping for at the Olympic Qualification Tournament next February.”

When discussing his time with the Men’s National Team Program, Halajian appeared serene and excited to see what the future holds for him. Drawing from his water polo experience, he learned to trust the process and appreciate the journey of achieving your goals.

“Water polo brought me to a place in my life where I can appreciate the process that goes into being the best that you can be. Whether in the classroom, in the pool, or anywhere else, the same commitment and approach are necessary to have success. I learned how to be successful in the pool with Water Polo Canada, and these habits have brought me plenty of success outside of the water.”

During his ten years with the National Team, Halajian counted on veteran players to guide him through the National Team ranks. When asked if he had any pieces of advice for younger athletes who are starting their careers, Halajian encourages these athletes to maintain a balance between the different spheres of their lives.
“I’d encourage them to strive for balance in their lives while they are growing up, especially while training for, moving up through, the National Team ranks. One of the things I am proudest of throughout my career with the Senior Men’s National Team is being able to balance the national team with both academics and maintaining a social life. Maintaining this stability was extremely difficult and meant that I got a bit less sleep than I would have liked some nights, but balancing and enjoying balancing, all three of these led to an incredibly joyful several years.”
For the 25-year-old athlete, this search for stability translated into the decision to pursue his academic aspirations. Halajian sees the future in a positive light as he focuses on other interests, such as his Masters of Arts. He remains involved in water polo at the community level and hopes to give back to the Calgary water polo community in the coming years.
“Working on my Master of Arts at the University of Calgary will take up the majority of my time for the next couple of years. Afterwards, further pursuit of my academic interests will likely be my primary objective and give back to the water polo community. I have already begun to coach with the Calgary Seawolves, working with their U17 team, and have been enjoying helping the younger generations learn more about water polo while having fun doing so.”

“On behalf of Water Polo Canada, I’d like to thank Matthew for his dedication to the sport of Water Polo and for his commitment to the Men’s National Team program. Over the past decade, he grew to become an important role player with the team, and unfortunately had to make a difficult decision with the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics. Developing holistic athletes in and out of the pool is of utmost importance to our organization and we hope for continued success in this area for all future alumni. I’d like to wish Matthew all the success in his academic pursuits once again thank him for his time with Water Polo Canada,” commented Justin Oliveira, Water Polo Canada’s High Performance Director.

“I had a fantastic ten years playing with Water Polo Canada and made plenty of lifelong friends, travelled the world, had experiences that I would never have in any other career, and was able to have an entire decade of my life competing at a high level and playing the sport that supplied me with so much joy,” concluded Matthew Halajian.




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