Italy returns to world stage with extra-time victory
Italy has returned to the top tier of men’s world water polo, wresting the FINA World Championship crown from the Balkans in a spectacular gold-medal final at the Natatorium on Saturday.
The climax to the 14-day water polo programme saw Italy take world champion Serbia to extra time after the game was locked at 6-6. A 2-1 first period had Italy in the box seat and the second period yielded no goals for the 8-7 victory.
The game had everything, although water polo purists may say it was too much. It had a huge crowd players and coaches red-carded, coach antics poolside and a fantastic celebration afterwards that had the spectators cheering and dancing in the aisles.
Following the presentation of the medals, the entire Italian team, dressed in tracksuits and shoes, jumped into the water with their medals to celebrate.
It lifted Italy above Serbia after finishing runner-up to the Serbs at the recent FINA World League Super Final in Florence with the same score.
USA success: six medals for Phelps; Franklin with five
In a teenagers’ final, Melissa (“Missy”) Franklin (USA) got her fourth medal in these championships, the gold, in the women’s 200m backstroke (2:05.10). In Shanghai, she had previously assured the title in the 4x200m free relay, obtained the silver in the 4x100m free relay and earned bronze in the 50m backstroke. The 16-year-old swimmer is definitively the most notable “rookie” of the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai, and various experts in the pool deck consider her arrival at the top of the world hierarchy a phenomenon similar to the first gold of a “certain” Michael Phelps in 2001 in Fukuoka, also at 16… Franklin was born on May 10, 1995 in Pasadena (California), but lives in Aurora (Colorado). Swimming for the Colorado Stars and coached by Todd Schmitz, she started swimming because of her mother’s fear of the water!
Greece fends off China for women’s water polo gold
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.
Lochte: two more gold for the versatile champion
With two more wins during the sixth session of the swimming finals of the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai, Ryan Lochte (USA) is definitively the second best swimmer ever in the history of this competition. His medal tally now stands at 11 gold medals, three silver and three bronze, and only his arch-rival in China, Michael Phelps, has done better so far. Lochte’s path to glory started at the 2005 edition in Montreal (CAN), where he helped USA winning the 4x200m free relay, and got two bronze in the 200m backstroke and 200m individual medley. The count raised in Melbourne 2007 to five podium finishes (two gold, three silver), and continued in Rome 2009 with four titles and one bronze medal. In Shanghai, he is the world champion in the 200m free, 200m individual medley (on these two distances, he defeated Michael Phelps) 200m backstroke and 4x200m free relay.
Serbia needs extra time to beat Hungary for gold-medal clash with Italy
World champion Serbia needed extra time to beat Olympic champion Hungary 15-14 in the first semifinal of the men's water polo competition at the FINA World Championships.
But for head coach Dejan UDOVICIC, it is not a case of defending "but winning again".
"We are not here to defend anything. The final is the final. We cannot compare Rome to Shanghai. Now we have to prepare for the final. It is the most important game."
UDOVICIC coached his team to what must be one of the finest moments in a long stream of top performances by the water polo-made nation.
"It was the spirit of Serbia on show today. We never give up. We can play at the highest level but we must peak again (for the gold)."
On the game, UDOVICIC said Hungary was very physical and a fast swimming team. He also said that having his players involved in so many high-level competitions in such a short period was telling.
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