A History of Water Polo – Olympics
When water polo first began, it was a tough sport. Fights between times was a common feature and this often disrupted play. In 1897, Harold Reeder of New York formulated the first American disciplinary rules that were specifically targeted at curbing the violent tendencies of the sport.
In early days, the athletes had to ride on floating barrels. These barrels bore stark resemblance to mock horses and what made the game difficult was that the athletes had to swing at the ball with mallet-like sticks, a lot like equestrian polo.
This is how the game got its name. However, the sport became popular in the United States by another name – softball water polo. The American’s gave the sport this name because of the characteristics of the ball used in the game which resembled an unfilled bladder.
Water polo developed quite differently in Europe and the United States. However, the European style was much faster at gaining widespread popularity, mainly because it was largely seen as the safer and faster of the two. Today, the European style of water polo is practiced universally. Water polo features two seven-man teams that play four games of seven minutes each.
Although the game quickly became immensely popular as a sport, it wasn’t until the 1900 Paris Games that water polo was introduced to the Olympics. The game’s debut was a huge success and, except for the following Olympic Games, has been an integral part of the global event ever since.
Hungary has traditionally dominated water polo in the Olympic Games. The country had a long winning streak as it won every Olympics water polo event played between 1928 and 1980. From 1932 to 1976, the team won 6 out of a total of 10 available gold medals.
Then in the 2000 Olympics, the Hungarians staged a spectacular comeback as they won their seventh water polo gold medal. Another reason to celebrate was that the women’s water polo made its debut in the same year after nearly a 100 years in the discipline.
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