With three Olympics already under his belt, United States water polo captain Tony Azevedo is under no illusions - London is likely the 31-year-old Californian's last shot at a gold medal.
Azevedo, one of the best American water polo players ever, scored 17 goals in Beijing four years ago to lead the U.S. to a surprise silver medal-finish. The core of that team - a veteran group of world-class players - is back and eager not to let what might be their last Olympic hurrah together go to waste.
So with the clock ticking on their Olympic ambitions, Azevedo and the other veterans made a decision last year: They would forgo lucrative club contracts in Europe and train together as a team.
"Every single one of us skipped the opportunity to play overseas," said Azevedo, who made his Olympic debut at the 2000 Sydney Games. "We as the older guys, the leaders, kind of talked about it and decided that this is definitely the best thing for us.
"We've worked so hard for so long, we know each other so well now that we just feel like this team is the one that's going to win it, if there is one. And we're just hoping that more time training together and getting prepared is going to be the solution."
The United States hasn't won gold in water polo since the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. Three times the Americans have finished second - in 1984 in Los Angeles, in Seoul, South Korea, four years later, and in 2008 in Beijing.
In China, the Americans cruised through the preliminary round, then beat world power Serbia in the semifinals before falling to defending champion Hungary 14-10 in the gold medal game.
With the bulk of the 2008 team back this year, including Azevedo and three-time Olympian Ryan Bailey, goalkeeper Merrill Moses and Adam Wright, coach Terry Schroeder leads a squad that has played in the water polo world's marquee competitions.
"We have some great experience, and we have a group of guys who have been playing together in some cases for 12 to 14 years, and that goes a long ways," Schroeder said.
But those years together in the pool also come at a price in such a physically grueling sport, and Schroeder openly admits there are some concerns about how his players will stand up to the grind of the Olympic schedule.
"Every team changes, just like we change as people. I think we go through these stages in our lives, and right now we're going to go to the Olympics as probably the oldest team," he said. "The average age will be about 31, I think, and that's pretty old. So we as coaches need to do what we can to keep these guys healthy and yet push their bodies to the limit to get them in the best possible shape we can come the Olympics."
Schroeder, who played on both those American silver medal squads in the 80s, brought the current players together in California in January and set to work on getting the team physically and mentally fit for London with a rigorous training regimen.
Before warmup matches started in earnest in May and June, the team was on a six-day-a-week workout schedule. Three days they would lift weights for two hours in the morning quickly followed by two hours in the pool, and then another 2 1/2 hours in the water in the evening. The other three days, they go just one three-hour block. Sunday is a free day.
"We're on kind of a seven-month plan here to build up and get to where we want to be come the Olympics," Schroeder said. "The guys know that for us to have a chance to win, we need to do that. We need to make that commitment. We need to build a good solid base of physical conditioning and then start working on tactics together, and then get to the point where we're the best team out there."
The Americans landed in a tough preliminary group in London with gold medal favorites Serbia, three-time defending Olympic champion Hungary and 2012 European Championship runner-up Montenegro.
But with a silver medal from Beijing in their back pocket, Azevedo and his teammates are confident that their extra time together this year preparing for London will have them ready to go one better than in Beijing.
"Gold is what we're capable of," Azevedo said, "and I know that if we play all of us to our ability that we're the best team in the world."