Greece fends off China for women’s water polo gold

Shanghai 2011 - Water Polo

Antigoni ROUMPESI and Alexandra ASIMAKI guided Greece to its first FINA World Championship in women’s water polo at the Natatorium on Friday.

The dynamic duo scored three goals each as Greece led from the front and survived a late Chinese comeback amidst a huge barrage of fouls that almost derailed its chance for glory.

For both teams it was a first medal at this level. Before tonight, Greece had Olympic silver and FINA World League gold and two bronzes while China had just the FINA World Cup bronze from last year. Both are now hot contenders for next year’s London Olympic Games.

Greece made the move in the second quarter with a 2-0 effort and levelled the third at four. The margin went to three (9-6) early in the fourth period but despite many chances could not expand the gap. China scored twice and had a chance in the final half minute but blew the pass.

Greece vs China - Credit: Giorgio Scala

Greece was a deserved winner but China would also have been deserved. It continues the host nation’s surge up the rankings to a career-best two from last year’s three and with London waiting in the wings.

Russia added another bronze medal to its cabinet, just holding off a rampaging Italy 8-7.

Russia led 5-0 in the second quarter but as captain Sofia KONOUKH was ejected from the game in the third period and three others joined her, Italy came back to 8-7 by the end of that period. Italy also had three excluded for the game and captain Elisa CASANOVA gave a parting shot to the referees after her exclusion in the last minute, gaining a suspension foul. But by then the game was lost.

Surprisingly, no goals came in the quarter and Russia adds bronze to those won in 2003, 2007 and 2009. Italy has to be content with two titles, one silver and one bronze in a stellar history at this level.

Russian Ekaterina PROKOFYEVA scored twice to lift her tournament tally to 18 while Roberta BIANCONI was her team’s best with 17.

In the play-off for fifth and sixth there was a repeat match-up of last year’s FINA World Cup finalists in Christchurch, New Zealand. This time, instead of USA heading Australia by six goals, it was the Aussie Stingers turning the tables on Team USA, leading by six goals at 10-4 early in the final quarter before the USA closed the scoring for a 10-5 loss. Australia’s Bronwen KNOX stepped up for four goals, top-scoring with her team-mate Rowena WEBSTER on 16 each for the championship.

In the seventh-eighth classification match, Olympic champion Netherlands held off a late-charging Canada 8-7. Iefke VAN BELKUM’s two goals lifted her to 17 for the tournament, three ahead of fellow Olympic champion Mieke CABOUT with 14, twice a scorer today.

The Media All Star Team was headed by Most Valuable Player MA Huanhuan, who played an integral part in her team’s fantastic run in Shanghai. She was joined by her centre-forward team-mate SUN Yating (CHN), the tournament’s highest scorer with 25 goals, Blanca GIL (ESP), Ekaterina PROKOFYEVA (RUS), Roberta BIANCONI (ITA), Antigoni ROUMPESI (GRE) and goalkeeper Elena KOUVDOU (GRE) Saturday finalises the water polo competition with world champion Serbia playing Italy in the gold-medal final at 21:00.

Hungary clashes with Croatia for bronze at 16:00 with the minor placings five to eight from 09:30.