1996 was again an Olympic year, with the Games being held in Atlanta, Georgia, where the men finished a disappointing seventh. We had played Spain in the quarter-finals to advance to the Medal Round and lost a very close game to them. Spain went on to win the Gold Medal behind outstanding play from their goalie Jesus Rollan and their outstanding field player Manuel Estiarte.
1996 Us National Men's Team
1996 US National Women's Team
1997 started a new quadrennial with a new head coach, John Vargas. The team traveled to Athens, Greece for the FINA Cup, where they produced a strong performance, winning the Gold Medal, followed by Greece and Hungary; while the women traveled to Nancy, France and finished in 7th place, with Netherlands winning followed by Russia and Australia. 1998 was highlighted by the World Championships, back in Perth, Australia. The men’s team struggled some and finished in 7th place, with Spain winning the Gold Medal followed by Yugoslavia and Russia; while the women finished in 8th place, with Italy winning the Gold Medal, followed by Netherlands and Australia. 1999 went back to the FINA Cups, with the men traveling to Sidney, Australia, where they finished in 6th place with Hungary winning the Gold, followed by Italy and Spain and the women traveling to Winnipeg, Canada, where they finished in 6th place with Netherlands taking the Gold Medal, followed by Australia and Italy. At the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada, the men continued their domination taking the Gold Medal, followed by Brazil and Canada; the women made their debut at these Games and finished second to Canada while Brazil took the Bronze medal.
2000 was the Olympic Year, with the Games being held in Sydney, Australia. Most of the water polo games were conducted at the Ryde Pool, with the finals being held at Homebush in the main swimming stadium. The men finished in 6th place, while the women made their debut in the Olympic Games. The men’s side was won by Hungary, followed by Russia and Yugoslavia. The women played in the Homebush stadium pool against Australia in the Gold Medal Game in one of the best games ever played. The game was viewed by over 12,000 very noisy spectators, most of them Australian. It looked like the game was going to go to overtime when Australia scored in the final seconds with an outside shot. It was a devastating loss for the women, but again, there is nothing wrong with being the second best team in the World and I am sure that all the women prize their Silver Medal today. These Games served as the debut for Tony Azevedo for the United States. Tony has gone on to be a three time Olympian and one of the top players in the World. On the Women’s team was Maureen O’Toole, for many years considered as the top women’s player in the World. At age 39, she had come out of retirement to compete for a place on the team and won it. The ability to compete against women almost 15 years younger than her was a testament to the outstanding ability of this remarkable athlete and person.
This article was first posted on the American Water Polo web site
and they graciously allowed the Water Polo Planet to re-post it.