Riccione 2012, Water Polo: Three lots of extra time and two penalty shootouts!
Drama it certainly was and right up until the last second at the 14th FINA World Masters Championships where the 274 matches in Riccione certainly provided fantastic publicity for this discipline of the aquatic sports. Exactly one hundred teams took part (one team had to withdraw at the last minute as it did not have enough players) and those present including FINA President, Dr. Julio C. Maglione, FINA Hon. Secretary and President of the Italian Swimming Federation, Paolo Barelli, and FINA Executive Director, Cornel Marculescu, witnessed a fantastic spectacle the likes of which has seldom been seen before. Of the teams taking part twelve of them were women’s teams competing in four different age-groups while the remainder in the men’s tournament were competing in eight different age-groups. And the finals themselves provided a particularly tense and exciting atmosphere with three of them going into extra time and of those three two went to penalty shoot-outs. In just two age-groups were the winners from Boras in Sweden two years ago able to repeat their triumph and in the women’s tournament there was just one successful title defense.
In the age-group 30+, the title went to a team from the host country, Comonaco, from the Ligurian coast near Camogli who defeated the Olympic Club from San Francisco by a score of 8-7 just within normal time. On the American team were two Italian players, Giovanni and Christan Napolitano. Giovanni has been living in the United States for many years and his brother visits him there almost every year. It was a hardly a surprise that he wanted to return home to play in the tournament. No extra time was needed either for the teams in the final of the 35+ age-group where the Romanian team Brenntag Bucharest defeated the Masters WP Club from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil by 12 goals to 10.
It was only in the very final second of extra time that the Veterans Club from Dubrovnik in Croatia was able to score the winning goal in the final of the 40+ age-group to secure the gold medal with a 10-9 victory over the Romanian team, Water Polo Romania. "It was a real goal for us to win here. We have managed it in a fantastic tournament and in a wonderful place!" said the coach, Goran Rurailic, before the team members threw him into the water straight after the final whistle as part of their celebrations. One of the most dramatic finals of all came in the final of the 45+ age-group when the Olympic Club from San Francisco met the Happy Hippos from Hungary. The Magyars were leading 7-3 in the third quarter before the Californians started to pull back goal after goal until they levelled the match. When it came to extra time there was nothing to separate the teams and so it came down to penalties. This time lady luck was on the side of the Olympic Club as it triumphed by 14 goals to 12, a victory enthusiastically celebrated by its supporters in the stands.
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The Dynamo Masters club from Moscow, which featured the legendary Olympic champion Georgy Mshvenieradze amongst its players, was able to celebrate a successful title defense in the 50+ age-group but they did need extra time to do so to beat the Santa Barbara club from the USA by 10 goals to 7. Both teams were in the battle for first and second place also two years ago in Sweden. The Santa Barbera club was, however, successful with another team in the 55+ age-group but again needed extra time to secure victory over the De Robben Hilversum club from the Netherlands with a final score of 6-5. In doing so, the goalkeeper, Stephan Harmann wore a cap from the 1970’s – with no ear protectors! Luckily, he didn‘t need them.
The third Santa Barbara team had a slightly easier passage to the final where it met another Amercian side, Chaos, from Los Angeles. However, the final proved nearly as straight-forward as the journey to the final as it won easily 6-0. There was another national duel in the final of the 65+ age-group but this time between two German sides – SV Cannstatt and SV Poseidon from Hamburg. Cannstatt went into the final as defending champions but once again extra time was necessary before the club could claim once again to be Masters World champions, this time with an 8-7 victory.
credit: Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia
In the women’s 30+ age-group it already looked like all was lost before the whistle had even been blown for the Santa Barbaran women as they only had eight players – two had to drop out due to their pregnancy. With a full team of 15 players the advantage certainly seemed to be with the Italians, Golfo Paradiso. However, the Americans overturned the form book and secured a most unexpected victory 8-6 to defend successfully the title they had won in Boras in 2010. Two women’s titles did, however, remain on Italian soil as All Swim Priolo Gargallo took the 35+ age-group title and Sorting Club Argentario the 40+ crown. There was a gold medal for the easily recognisable team from Australia, the Pink Pointers, in the 45+ age-group as they were easy to spot throughout the complex with their famous pink wigs while the American team, California Village, took the title in the 50+ age-group.
credit: Rita Pannunzi