Water Polo

Water Polo is one of the four disciplines of the sport of Aquatics.

Did you know?

Around 800 water polo balls will be used during the competition.
Top Water Polo players swim five kilometres (three miles) in the course of a match.
Water Polo developed in England in the 19th century. Great Britain won four of the first five Olympic Water Polo tournaments.

Key facts

Venue: Water Polo Arena
Dates: Sunday 29 July – Sunday 12 August
Gold medals up for grabs: 2
Athletes: 260

Water Polo: a history of the sport

Water polo was developed in Europe and the United States as two differing sports. When water polo first began, fighting between players was common, if not the norm.

In 1897, New Yorker Harold Reeder formulated the first American rules for discipline, which were aimed at curbing the sport’s more violent tendencies.
Ultimately, the faster, less dangerous European style predominated, and today this is the form of the game practised universally.

For more information on the history of the sport, visit the IOC website.

Naming the game

In the early days, the players rode on floating barrels that resembled mock horses, and swung at the ball with mallet-like sticks. This made it similar to equestrian polo, hence its name.

Water Polo at the Games

Men’s Water Polo made its debut at the 1900 Paris Games. Since then, by far the greatest exponents of the sport have been the Hungarians. Between 1928 and 1980, Hungary never failed to win a medal at the Olympic Games, and took home six of 10 possible gold medals between 1932 and 1976.

The newest Aquatics event in the Games is women’s Water Polo, which was introduced in Sydney 2000 – 100 years after the first men’s competition took place in Paris 1900.

How to play – and win

Water polo is a water-based version of handball. Players use a ball weighing between 400g and 450g. They aim to score goals in a three-metre wide, 90-centimetre high net that sits on top of the water.

Each team only has 30 seconds to score before the ball is passed to the opposition. As well as ball skills, players need stamina: you are not allowed to touch the bottom or the side of the pool during a match, which lasts for four periods of seven minutes each. Top water polo players swim five kilometres (three miles) in each match.

Jargon buster

  • Ball under: A foul called on a player for taking or holding the ball underwater when an opponent tackles the player.
  • Dry pass: A pass in water polo that is designed to be caught before the ball hits the water. 
  • Eggbeater: A powerful way of treading water, used in synchronised swimming and water polo. 
  • Swim-off: A race for the ball in the centre of the field of play to start each period.

Get involved

If you want to know more about clubs, facilities and coaching schemes in your area, contact your national federation. Visit British Swimming, Federation Internationale de Natation, Welsh Amateur Swimming Association, Swim Ulster and Scottish Swimming.

water polo at the Beijing games

~ by superbowlnyc on February 20, 2011.

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