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bawfuls
Oct 28, 2009

Plague Champion


Water Polo is the longest running team sport in the summer Olympics, having made it's debut in 1900. It's a very physically demanding sport, somewhat famous for it's brutality. I find it quite watchable with short 8-minute quarters, a 30-second shot clock, and relatively frequent scoring. I played (poorly) in high school so here's a quick primer for the unfamiliar.

Rules Basics:
  • 7 players a side including the goalie, who is the only position allowed to use two hands on the ball
  • A goal is scored when the ball completely passes the front plane of the goal
  • At this level they play four 8-minute quarters with a 30-second shot clock
  • If you are touching the ball, defenders can legally make a lot of contact with you.
  • There are two common types of fouls: minor fouls (one whistle) in which the defender simply has to back off of you, and major fouls (two whistles) which result in an ejection and thus a 6-on-5 power play for one offensive possession and extends the shot clock by 20 seconds. Ejections are quite common and converting your power-play opportunities into goals is important. If a player is ejected in this manner three times, they are out of the game for good. (there's no limit on minor fouls)
  • A major foul committed close to the goal preventing a likely goal (or egregious brutality) can result in a 5-meter penalty shot. Typically this happens on a transition/breakaway where the defender is further from the goal than the attacker.
  • Substitutions are unlimited and free-flowing, much like hockey. They will typically happen on transitions and breaks in play.
  • The colored lane lines on the side of the pool indicate some important dimensions, the key one being red which is the first 2 meters in front of the goal. Offensive players are not allowed to receive the ball inside this zone (water polo's version of offsides). The yellow indicates 6-meters from the goal. If the defense commits a minor foul on a player who is outside 6-meters, the player is allowed to shoot directly off the foul but they must do it immediately without hesitation or pump-faking.

Strategy Basics:
  • Because of the shot clock, there is less need to force turnovers because you will get the ball back eventually
  • Because of the touching/not-touching ball distinction, offensive players will often try to draw a (minor) foul by inviting/inducing/exaggerating contact and then letting go of the ball
  • If the ref can't see it, he can't call it, and it's tough to see exactly what's going on under water. TV has loved the underwater camera angle for putting this on display in the past, though NBC may be more nervous about it after several suit-ripping exposure incidents.
  • You will often see players pump faking a lot before a shot. This is to draw the goalie up out of the water in anticipation of a shot and hopefully tire the goalie out before taking a shot. Goalies have the strongest legs in the pool by necessity (they have to be able to tread water with both hands up and lunge with their whole torso out of the water) but they can't maintain that strong defensive position indefinitely.
  • The most potent scoring position is dead center on the 2-meter line. On offense this is called the Hole (or center forward in lame Olympic nomenclature) and typically features the biggest/strongest player. From this position good players can make no-look behind-the-back shots. They will typically position themselves facing away from the goal, because they can spin to shoot in either direction very quickly, and need to be able to see/control incoming passes. Most major fouls are committed defending this position, because allowing a shot from here is so dangerous.
  • Typical set offensive configuration includes the hole and then two other wing players at or near 2-meters, then another row of 3 several meters out. The offense will try to move the ball around to make space for a pass in to the hole or a perimeter player with enough space for a shot.
  • 6-on-5 power play offense typically puts an offensive player at 2-meters on each goal post and the remaining 4 in a perimeter around them. Because the defense is forced into a sort of zone-coverage, the offense will typically focus on rapid ball movement in an effort to catch the goalie out of position after a cross-pool shot.
  • Transition goals and breakaways happen but I think they're less common at the Olympic level where everyone is highly competent than they were in my small high school league where you could just take off early on a turnover and beat the defense down the pool.

Who is good at this? What's the tournament format?
For the men, Hungary is the world power having won 16 medals (9 gold) including 3-straight gold in 2000-2004-2008. Italy is next in the medal count with 13 including 3 gold. Yugoslavia was quite strong when it existed (8 medals 3 gold) and that legacy lives on in three former Yugoslav states of Serbia (reigning Olympic champs), Croatia, and Montenegro. The United States has the 3rd most medals (9) but has never won gold (they lost the gold medal game in 2008, 14-10 to who else but Hungary). Basically every American player is from California (if you look at the current roster they all went to UCLA, USC, Berkley, Stanford, or Pepperdine with only 1 exception). Greece, Australia, Spain, South Africa, Japan, and Kazakhstan round out the men's field this year.

The 12 teams are split into two groups of 6. They'll play everyone in their group round-robin style and the top 4 from each group advance to a single-elimination tournament.

Women's Water Polo debuted at the 2000 games in Sydney, where Australia defeated the USA 4-3 in the gold medal game. Since then, the gold has been won (in order) by Italy, Netherlands, and the United States x2. So as with soccer and many team sports the American women have a track record of delivering gold where the men have fallen short so many times. The Hungarian women have finished 4th each of the last three Olympics.

The women's tournament is 10 teams, 5 per group with the same round robin followed by single elimination tournament.

What's the deal with those funny hats they wear?
These caps are actually critical safety equipment. If your ear is full of water and you get smacked on the side of the head (by someone's hand or the ball) the pressure wave can shatter your eardrum. So the plastic ear cups protect against this, and the rest of the cap holds them in place while also being a convenient place to indicate uniform and player numbers. Water polo players wear caps at nearly all times in the pool for this reason, even during practice/scrimage.

Lets watch some water polo! (Late at night on the west coast)

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habeasdorkus
Nov 3, 2013

Royalty is a continuous shitposting motion.

Anyone who wants to see sheer dominance should look at the US women dismantling the hosts by a record margin a couple days back. It was dope as hell.

Mister Gopher
Oct 27, 2004
I eat my own poop

Soiled Meat

US just had a good comeback against Japan, has South Africa next.

side_burned
Nov 3, 2004

My mother is a fish.


A buddy of mine did three sports in high school swimming, wrestling and water polo. Did the first two to supplement the later.

bawfuls
Oct 28, 2009

Plague Champion


Some near-term schedule watching, all times in California (GMT-7):

The American women have their second prelim match "tonight" (really Monday in Tokyo) vs China at 10pm. After that Not Russia vs Hungary is at 11:30pm. Two more women's matches at 2:20am (Australia v Netherlands) and 3:40am (Spain Canada).

On Monday the American men's second match is at 6pm vs South Africa.

USA v Hungary women play at 10pm Tuesday night, that should be a good matchup. The men's version of that matchup will be next Saturday (10pm Friday in California).

bawfuls fucked around with this message at 03:53 on Jul 26, 2021

bawfuls
Oct 28, 2009

Plague Champion


slow start for the two-time reigning champs here

bawfuls
Oct 28, 2009

Plague Champion


Absolutely not how I expected the first half of this game to go.

Americans looking like they remembered they're the favorites in the 4th quarter

bawfuls fucked around with this message at 05:59 on Jul 26, 2021

bawfuls
Oct 28, 2009

Plague Champion


Men's USA v South Africa starts in 10 minutes

SporkOfTruth
Sep 1, 2006

this kid walked up to me and was like man schmitty your stache is ghetto and I was like whatever man your 3b look like a dishrag.

he was like damn.


Oh hey, a UC Irvine alum scored the first goal for South Africa!

bawfuls
Oct 28, 2009

Plague Champion


SA getting beat bad on these transitions

bawfuls
Oct 28, 2009

Plague Champion


USA v Italy coming up on the men's side here in 5 minutes, should be the American men's toughest opponent to this point in the tournament.

bawfuls
Oct 28, 2009

Plague Champion


American men showed a lot of potential playing tight against Italy and Hungary despite close-ish losses, then seemed to fall apart vs Greece. They enter the quarterfinals as the low seed and will have to face Spain (late night this Tuesday). They seem to be showing their youth a bit in this tournament.

Meanwhile the women look well prepared to defend their gold, their only loss in the round robin coming in a close match with Hungary. They will face Canada tonight at 10pm (PDT) in their quarterfinal.

bvj191jgl7bBsqF5m
Apr 16, 2017

Í̝̰ ͓̯̖̫̹̯̤A҉m̺̩͝ ͇̬A̡̮̞̠͚͉̱̫ K̶e͓ǵ.̻̱̪͖̹̟̕


I see USA is beating Canada 11-3 in the quarter finals right now. How many points do you get for scoring a goal?

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bvj191jgl7bBsqF5m
Apr 16, 2017

Í̝̰ ͓̯̖̫̹̯̤A҉m̺̩͝ ͇̬A̡̮̞̠͚͉̱̫ K̶e͓ǵ.̻̱̪͖̹̟̕


I'm being told that a goal is worth 1 point. Welp.

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