RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The Rio water polo tournament gave the Serbian men’s team their first Olympic gold after sweeping nearly every world and regional title and crowned a fiercely dominant U.S. women’s team with a second straight Games title.
Serbia’s nearly impregnable defense and superior shooting skills showed their grip on the sport. They easily overpowered London Games title holder Croatia to win the final by 11-7.
The power-packed U.S. women, who have also dominated recent major tournaments, steamrollered six rivals to win gold, defeating Italy in the final by the largest margin in the history of Olympic finals, 12-5.
Filip Filipovic, the Serbian driver who was one of the top scorers for his team and was voted the tournament’s top player, said he believed his team was the best to play the sport.
Adam Krikorian, the coach for the U.S. women, said “a strong argument could be made” that his young team was also the best in history. They became the first to win gold medals at successive Games.
On the men’s side, the Olympic semi-finals featured exactly the same line-up as in London, with Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia and Italy making the final four. Italy beat Montenegro to win the bronze.
But for all their dominance in the latter stages, Serbia got off to a wobbly start with two draws and a loss against host nation Brazil in the group stage, threatening a possible knock-out from the elimination rounds. They steadied their performance and won all their remaining games.
On the women’s side, Australia, a favorite to challenge Team USA for the gold, was upset by a strong Hungarian side in the quarter-finals. They ultimately placed a disappointing sixth.
Reporting by Joshua Schneyer; Editing by Alison Williams