Action Down Under
Ten years ago Yvette Higgins blasted her name into the Australian sporting psyche when she scored an improbable goal to win water polo’s holy grail — the inaugural women’s Olympic gold medal.
With the decade of women’s Olympic involvement behind us, it’s time to celebrate with six of the world’s best teams returning to the 2000 Olympic Games venue — Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre — for another rousing rendition.
Australia, Canada, China, Greece, Russia and the United States of America will contest 18 games over five days from August 8 in the Auspole Longmont 10th Anniversary Tournament.
Australia is the current World Cup champion; the USA holds the World and World League crowns while Russia is the European champion.
The event will be a celebration of women in water polo and the official colour of the tournament is pink.
While no Australian players from 2000 are still competing at international level, included in the USA line-up are two players from that Olympic gold-medal final won 4-3 by Australia — Brenda Villa and Heather Petri.
Villa and Petri are the most decorated female players in history with three FINA World Championships (2003, ‘07, ‘09) and five FINA World League titles (2004, 06, 07, 09, 10) to their name.
Both have medalled at all three Olympic Games — beating Australia for bronze in 2004 and losing the gold-medal match to the Netherlands in 2008.
The rivalry between the Aussie Stingers and the USA has been intense in the past decade with the USA holding the upper hand.
The 2004 Olympic loss was followed with a loss in the semifinals of the 2008 edition.
The USA beat Australia for gold at the 2007 FINA World Championships in Melbourne and pipped the Stingers in the gold-medal final of both the Montreal 2006 and La Jolla 2010 FINA World League Super Finals.
That last loss came in a penalty shootout — won 12-11 by USA — in La Jolla, California earlier this month.
All six teams will be using the Sydney event as a lead-up to the following week’s quadrennial FINA World Cup in Christchurch.
Games start on Sunday, August 8 with three-match sessions each day except Monday when there will be a morning and an evening session.
On Thursday, the top two teams will play for gold and third and fourth for bronze with fifth and sixth for pride.