PR66 - Russia overcomes Netherlands to earn first Junior crown, USA takes bronze

2009

Russia has broken a national drought in women’s water polo by claiming the gold medal at the 8th FINA World Women’s Junior Water Polo Championships which took place in Khanty-Mansiysk (RUS) from August 9-15, 2009. The score of the final against the Netherlands was 14-9 (3-2, 0-4, 3-3, 3-5). Team Netherlands, which also played sharply and with equal skills, fired out of the blocks to lead 3-0 but were gradually out-played.

The Russians bided their time, pouncing in the second quarter to lead 6-3 at halftime and 9-6 at the final break before riding the wave of Russian fervour that was spilling out of the elevated grandstand. This gold medal for Russia gives its junior teams a complete medal set to go with the silver from Perth in 2005 and the bronze, also from Perth, in 2001.

The fast and agile Ekaterina Prokofyeva (RUS), who was among the finest players at the Western Siberian tournament (generating a total of 15 goals), gave Russia a virtual eighth player in the golden game. Also forces to be reckoned with were sisters Alexandra and Diana Antonova (RUS), who scored eight between them from close range. Meanwhile, Netherlands goalkeeper Michelle Slobbe had a fine concluding performance - continuing a trend she displayed throughout the Championships - and was named tournament goalkeeper.

For the bronze, USA collected its sixth medal (three bronze, two gold and two silver) at this level by holding off Hungary 11-8 (4-2, 3-3, 2-2, 2-1). Victory was built on a 4-1 start, but Hungary had nearly wiped out that deficit by the start of the final quarter when they were just one goal behind at 9-8. However, when Maggie Steffens (USA) - one of the stars of the tournament - scored the late winner, the game was over.

In the game for fifth-sixth, Italy controlled the game to defeat Canada (7-5 1-1, 1-4, 2-1, 0-1), and in the game for seventh-eighth, the outgoing champion Australia beat Spain 11-6 (3-1, 3-4, 3-1, 2-0).

Tournament All-Stars: Goalkeeper: Michelle SLOBBE (NED), Centre Forward: Annika DRIES (USA), Field Players: Cristina TSOUKALA (GRE), Ekaterina PROKOFYEVA (RUS), Dora ANTAL (HUN), Maggie STEFFENS (USA), Rita KESZTHELYI (HUN).

The competition, which was held at the Sports and Health Centre of the Ugra State University, welcomed 15 teams from Greece, Canada, Germany, Australia, Spain, Italy, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Hungary, Uzbekistan, South Africa, Brazil, Netherlands, USA, and Russia.

FINA Newsletter