SwimmingA Review Of Olympic Dominance By USA Women's Water Polo

A Review Of Olympic Dominance By USA Women’s Water Polo

Three-Peat Complete: A Review Of Olympic Dominance By USA Women’s Water Polo

The Olympics showcase the best of the best. It shines a light on those with immense talent, backed by years of hard work and determination. This year, at the Tokyo Olympics, one women’s water polo team was clearly the favorite. The United States team had won every gold medal in reach for years. The last three World Championships belonged to the team. The past three World Cups have their name on it. The last seven World League titles adorn their resume. And the last two Olympic gold medals also belong to Team USA. 

Opening Play

Their first two tests in Tokyo quickly turned into success stories, as the team beat Japan, 25-4, and China, 12-7. The game against Japan produced three Olympic records: Most goals scored in a game, the largest halftime total, and the greatest margin of victory. However, these celebrations were short-lived. After not having lost an Olympic game since the final in 2008, the team narrowly dropped a 10-9 decision to Hungary. 

Before the Games, when asked about threats, Hungary was on the list, and the European nation indeed prove to be a challenge. The loss to Hungary proved no team was unbeatable. However, with their Olympic streak over, the team responded. 

A New Streak

Jul 30, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; USA player Margaret Steffens (6) controls the balls against ROC during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tatsumi Water Polo Centre. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Maggie Steffens; Photo Courtesy: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

In the next three games, the United States began a new streak. It toppled the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), 18-5, and the team’s captain, Maggie Steffens, became the all-time leading scorer in women’s Olympic water polo. Even after suffering a broken nose and black eye earlier in the tournament, Steffens refused to allow minor inconveniences such as injuries deter her from her goals. 

In an interview released by USAWP, Steffens shared her love for the game, saying: “I did swimming, I did basketball, I did soccer, I did gymnastics, I did dance, and water polo was the one that kind of tied all the sports I really loved into one. It has the mental game, the emotional game, the physical game, the endurance. It’s a team sport, which is the only sport I could probably ever do, so that’s really the draw to me, that it kind of took all the aspects of different sports and put it into one.”

The Next Steps

The U.S. ended up winning their bracket, even in the absence of a perfect record. Hungary also lost a game and the point differential favored Team USA. Their stifling defense and multiple offensive threats proved superior. This gave them a top seed in the medal round. 

In the quarterfinals, the U.S. handily beat their Northern American rival, Canada, 16-5. Advancing to the semifinals, they were slated to play the ROC again. The rematch was not as dominant a performance for Team USA, as Russia got out to 6-3 lead. However, the U.S. steadied itself under coach Adam Krikorian and came away with a 15-11 victory.

Going for Gold

Aug 7, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; United States driver Margaret Steffens (6) and centre forward Aria Fischer (9) celebrates after beating Spain in the women's waterpolo gold medal match during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tatsumi Water Polo Centre. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Maggie Steffens, left, and Aria Fischer celebrate after the final whistle of the U.S.’s gold-medal game win over Spain; Photo Courtesy: Robert Deutsch – USA TODAY Sports

Into the gold-medal game, the United States was one win from a three-peat. From their first goal in the opening 27 seconds to the last possession, Team USA showcased their dominance against Spain, emerging with a 14-5 triumph. Maddie Musselman was named the MVP of the tournament and Ashleigh Johnson was named top goalkeeper as the USA benefited from an all-around team effort. History was made as the U.S. added Olympic gold to the titles it captured in 2012 and 2016.

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