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Tokyo Olympics water polo in review: Team USA three-peats, a second straight gold for Serbia

Tokyo Olympics water polo in review: Team USA three-peats, a second straight gold for Serbia
Posted at 6:45 AM, Aug 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-08 08:49:36-04

History tends to repeat itself, especially in water polo. Team USA kept their winning streak alive with their third consecutive gold; they've won a medal in every single Olympics since the women's tournament was introduced in 2000. Meanwhile, Serbia's men won their fourth straight medal since the 2008 Beijing Olympics -- and their second straight gold. 

FULL REPLAYS: 

Women's gold medal match

Women's bronze medal match

Men's gold medal match

Men's bronze medal match

 

SEE MORE: U.S. women's water polo team makes history at medal ceremony

TEAM USA

The last time the United States' men's team took home a medal in water polo was in 2008 when they claimed silver after losing to Hungary in the gold-medal match. Since then, it's been a series of misses; at Rio 2016, they didn't even advance beyond the preliminary rounds. 

But progress was made this year, as they made it to the quarterfinals in Tokyo.

The women's team, on the other hand, continued to dominate. They have won a medal in each Olympics since the sport opened to women at the Sydney 2000 Games, and have been golden the last decade or so. In the Tokyo 2020 preliminary rounds, they topped Group B despite a lone loss to Hungary -- the team that eventually went on to win bronze (and whom they didn't face again in the knockout stages).  

In the quarterfinals, Team USA crushed Canada 16-5. In the semifinals, they bested the ROC 15-11. And in the final, they beat Spain with a 14-5 victory -- the largest margin of victory ever in a women’s water polo final.

No wonder they're so successful: Goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson earned 80 saves across seven matches, and monster scorer Maddie Musselman was named MVP of the tournament. Superstar Maggie Steffens now holds the record for most goals scored all-time in Olympic women’s water polo (56)

 

SEE MORE: Danville native Maggie Steffens on Team USA's win

MEN'S TOURNAMENT

It came down to reigning champs Serbia versus first-timers Greece in the men's final. 

Serbia scored its second successive water polo gold medal with a 13-10 victory. By winning, Serbia became the fourth team in Olympic history to earn back-to-back water polo golds -- and closed the Games with the last event of the day.

Serbia did not initially perform well in pool play, with three wins and two losses, but still advanced to the quarterfinals, where they crushed Italy, and squeaked past Spain in the semifinals  

This was the first time Greece earned a medal in men’s water polo and their 16th tournament appearance.

Hungary -- who won three preliminary matches in Tokyo, lost one, and tied another -- has enjoyed incredible success with water polo since the sport was introduced to the Olympics in 1900. They've won a total of 16 medals, nine of them gold -- including a first-place three-peat beginning with Sydney's 2000 Games through Beijing's 2008 Games. The country hit a dry spell in London 2012 and Rio 2016, where they placed fifth. 

But their 9-5 win over Spain at Tokyo's Tatsumi Water Polo Centre illustrated a return to form -- and provided the country with yet another medal in the event.

Medalists:

Gold: Serbia

Silver: Greece 

Bronze: Hungary

SEE MORE: Serbia scores second consecutive water polo gold

WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT

Hungary's women's team may not have the history or prestige of their male counterparts, but they proved their mettle by earning bronze at the Tokyo Olympics. 

They were second only to the United States in Group B pool play. They narrowly won against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, barely fell to Spain in the semifinals, and squeaked past the ROC in the resulting final -- meaning both the Hungarian men and women's team took home bronze.

The team's Vanda Vali became the top sprinter with 27 sprints in 7 matches.

Medalists:

Gold: United States

Silver: Spain

Bronze: Hungary

SEE MORE: Hungary holds off ROC, secures men's water polo bronze