A closer look at the U.S. women's water polo gold medal victory
Not only did the U.S. women’s water polo team become the first women’s team to win back-to-back gold medals when they defeated Italy 12-5 Friday, but the U.S. also continued a streak of being the only team to medal in every Olympics that has offered women’s water polo.
The U.S. now boasts two gold, two silver, and a bronze medal in five Olympics Games since 2000.
Here’s more from Team USA’s historic win:
- Captain Maggie Steffens won her second consecutive MVP award based on her play in Rio, as voted by the media members who had been following the women’s game. Steffens scored 17 goals in six games, and shot more than 75 percent from the field.
- Goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson was named the tournament’s top goalkeeper after saving more than 65 percent of the shots that came her way. Johnson had nine saves in the gold medal game.
- 18-year-old Maddie Musselman was also named to the Media All-Star Team after scoring 12 goals on 25 shot attempts. Musselman had four goals in Game 2 against China, and three goals in Game 3 against Hungary.
- Also named to the Media All-Star Team were Italy’s Arianna Garibotti, Hungary’s Rita Keszthelyi, Australia’s Ash Southern and Hungary’s Barbara Bujka.
- At 17 years old, center forward Aria Fischer became the youngest female ever to win a gold medal in a summer Olympic team sport. Fischer is also the youngest-ever American water polo medalist, male or female.
- Head coach Adam Krikorian had to leave the team two days before the Opening Ceremonies after the sudden passing of his brother in California. Krikorian’s wife surprised him at the gold medal game, and all the players gave their medals to Krikorian in a show of appreciation. Krikorian also coached the team during the 2012 London Games.
Quotes from the U.S.’s win:
Italy head coach Fabio Conti:
"USA is a team of another universe. We knew very well there is a big difference (between us), but perhaps not as big as today's score suggests. But it's normal in a final that if a team goes two or three up, the final is finished."
USA head coach Adam Krikorian:
On his emotions nearing the end of the game after the death of his brother before the tournament: "It was hitting me pretty hard. I was thinking about my brother and about how hard this journey has been. It would have been very selfish of me to let what happened to me personally effect this group. These girls have worked so hard for four years and some have worked their entire lives for this moment.
On what it means to him that his players put all their gold medals around his neck at the end: "It means my neck hurts for a few seconds. Honestly though it means a ton, no doubt. I'm not going to say that it doesn't make your heart warm. I will say though that it's the daily interaction and the relationships I have with this team means more to me than any medal."
On his wife surprising him before the game: "That was my wife. I told her not to come down here but we were at practice yesterday and I was walking towards the pool by myself and all of a sudden I hear my name being shouted. I looked over and my first thought was 'who's this good looking woman calling my name?' She came a little closer and I realized it was my wife. She flew in to be here with me for the last two days and that was a really emotional moment."
USA team captain Maggie Steffens:
On the make-up of the team with 'kids' and veterans: "These are strong, inspiring women. Definitely not kids. They may have come in similar to how I was last squad as just a little pup trying to learn and soak in all the advice and experience from the older girls. But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter your age, it doesn't matter how many Olympics you have been to, we are here to play and play for one another… They showed that throughout the games. We had such a threat no matter who was in the water. It didn't matter who was defending, or who was in center, or who was scoring goals, somebody else was going to do it the next game or continue doing it."
On the play of goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson: "She's incredible. She is a competitor at its finest. Doesn't matter what the score is, she wants to get that block and do it for our team. One of the things she said was when she makes a stop and immediately she can see the fire in our eyes because she was able to inspire her teammates. She always had our back."
On not being complacent coming in as favorites: "Our coach does a good job of making sure that we remember you're only as good as your next game. It doesn't matter what happened the day before, it doesn't matter what happened four years prior. It matters what you do right now."