History Detective

Table of Contents

  Peering Into Polo's Past  

Article VI

The 1984 US Olympic
Water Polo Team

Andy Burke

Andy Burke

Olympic Team 1984

1984 USA Men Olympic Team

This brings us up to 1984 and the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, under the guidance of Peter Ueberroth as Chairman (Peter had played water polo at San Jose State and had also practiced with our Olympic Club teams; Jay Flood as Aquatics Commissioner and Bob Gaughran as Venue Manager at Pepperdine, both members of our 1957 and 1959 Olympic Club AAU Championship teams.)

The United States looked strong going into the games as the 1983 Pan Am team, with the switch of Chris Dorst for Steve Hamann as one of the goalies, was a definite medal threat.

The reverse boycott by the Communist Bloc nations Russia and Hungary definitely reduced the quality of the field. Yugoslavia, Silver Medalist at Moscow, was installed as the favorite.

The US defeated Germany, Spain, Australia and Holland, while Yugoslavia defeated Germany, Spain Australia and Holland on the way to the Gold Medal match. The final game was a hard fought match, with the US leading 5-3 at the end of three quarters, but Yugoslavia scored twice in the fourth period to knot the score at 5-5. A last minute drive by the US, which scored, was nullified by the referee with an offensive foul called against the US player.

1984 Olympic Team

1984 USA Men Olympic Team won silver medal

The rules called for goal difference to decide placing, so while the US had outscored its opponents by 9 goals, the Yugoslavians had done the same by 14 goals and were declared winners, with the US finishing with a Silver medal. This was our highest placing other than the 1904 Olympics when no foreign teams entered and we won the Gold Medal.

With the terrorist attack in Munich, the financial problems of Montreal and the boycott of Moscow the Olympics had been on a down slide. Los Angeles was the only bidder for 1984 and the future of the Games was not secure.

Peter UeberrothUnder the leadership of Peter Ueberroth, the Los Angeles Olympics were a financial and cultural success, as the Olympic Games returned to a preeminent spot in the pantheon of sport.

The venue for the Olympic Games at Pepperdine was outstanding and since water polo was the only sport, it was like we were in our own little World. The water polo volunteers from outside the Southern California area were housed in the dorms at Pepperdine and you just walked down to the pool to work.

The referees for the matches were also housed there; so many evenings were spent in Malibu, rehashing the events of the day over a few“adult beverages”. Not being in the Olympics, the women again competed in the FINA Cup, held in Irvine, California, where the finish was Australia, USA and the Netherlands.

Our failure to qualify for the Olympic Games in 1976 led to water polo revising our policy in 1977 and establishing a National Coaching staff and National team.

Monte NitzkowskiMonte Nitzkowski was chosen as National Coach, Ken Lindgren as Assistant Coach and Terry Sayring as Manager. Over the next eight years these men would guide our team to the top level of water polo in the World. They are to be commended for their dedication.

The athletes that comprised the National Team over these same years also deserve a special commendation. Training was done primarily on weekends, with the site alternating between Northern and Southern California. Money was scarce, so when traveling, the athletes often stayed with each other. Stipends only came into effect when the team went into full time training for the Olympic Games.

Yet, they were all dedicated to bringing the United States to the forefront of World Water Polo.

This article was first posted on the American Water Polo web site
and they graciously allowed the Water Polo Planet to re-post it