Spain rained on South Africa's parade to the tune of 29-4 — an Olympic record margin — but it did not dampen the enthusiasm of the African qualifier in making an Olympic debut. The goals poured in the second encounter where the Russian Olympic Committee outlasted China 18-17 in a match where the scores were levelled an amazing 12 times. Progress points: Group A: ESP 2,AUS 2, CAN 0, RSA 0, NED. Group B: USA 2, ROC 2, CHN 0, JPN 0, HUN.
European champion Spain showed debutante South Africa what Olympic water polo was all about with a resounding 29-4 victory in the first match of the evening session.
For South Africa, the opening quarter was a delight as two players notched their country’s first women’s Olympic goals — Ashleigh Vaughn and Chloe Meecham.
“It was a huge honour, I only found out today. It’s incredible for the sport, incredible for women’s sport. I am overwhelmed. I hope I carry that honour well and be an example to women everywhere.”
The match contained some other firsts. It was South Africa’s first appearance at an Olympics. It was head coach Delaine Mentoor’s first match in charge at an Olympics and she became the first woman to be a head coach at this level, men’s or women’s teams. For the two referees — Asumi Tsuzaki (JPN) and Ursula Wengenroth (SUI) — it was their first Olympic Games and the first time that two women had officiated an Olympic water polo match. Tsuzaki was in the spotlight the night before as the official who took the Olympic Oath at the Opening Ceremony.
Following the 5-2 first quarter, Spain stepped on the gas and scored nine goals, allowing the African qualifier just the one — captain Jordan Wedderburn — to have a comprehensive 14-3 halftime margin. Anna Espar had four goals and Judith Forca netted three as the goals were spread among the team.
Wedderburn blew a penalty attempt in the third period, but made up for it with a sliding shot for 16-4. It was the last goal as Spain went on the rampage, taking the three-quarter break advantage to 19-4 and then smashing in 10 unanswered goals in the fourth for 29-4.
Historic as the match was for one team, the score was secondary as Spain used the match to brush up its game ahead of the tougher programme ahead. Elena Ruiz top-scored for Spain with five goals, including the match’s last two.
Talking about firsts, the winning margin was an Olympic record for Spain, beating the record set in the afternoon session — USA’s 25-4 margin over Japan.
Match 3, 17:20, Group A, SOUTH AFRICA 4 SPAIN 29
Quarters: 2-5, 1-9, 1-5, 0-10
Referees: Asumi Tsuzaki (JPN), Ursula Wengenroth (SUI).
Shots: RSA: 4/17. ESP: 29/49.
Extra Man: RSA: 1/3. ESP: 6/11.
Pens: RSA: 0/1.
Miki Oca (ESP) — Head Coach
“It was the first game against South Africa. Now we start the difficult part of the tournament. We have Canada in the next game, so we have to prepare very well. The game today was important so all the players could run and swim a little bit, gaining shots and action.”
Ashleigh Vaughn (RSA) — On scoring South Africa’s first Olympic goal
“Obviously, being at the Olympic Games is huge and it is the biggest honour so far. We played for the team, not necessarily me scoring.”
In the second match of the evening, it was exhausting. What a whirlwind match this was. Both teams were eager to score Olympic goals and they did not disappoint. However, it was the Russian Olympic Committee who finished on top — 18-17, not quite an Olympic record.
The opening quarter was a goal-fest and ROC started first, although it went 2-2 and 3-3 with China shooting out to 5-3 and 6-4 before ROC pulled one back to close the quarter.
The match was locked and six, seven, eight and nine in the second quarter with both teams having the edge at times. China went one goal ahead before halftime.
The third period was no different with ROC drawing level at 11 and going ahead for 12-11 in a three-goal burst. It was level at 12, however, ROC slipped two past the keeper for 14-12 at 2:09. When Xiao Chen scored a backhand at 1:39, it needed the Olympics’ first VAR decision as this technology has only become available and legal in recent years. Soon after, China went to a timeout and converted the occasion for 14-14 just before the final break.
This set up a brilliant final quarter with two points on offer. Neither team wanted a draw and played accordingly. ROC’s Evgeniya Ivanova was red-carded for disobedience in the first minute and China converted the extra-man opportunity for a 15-14 advantage. Elvina Karimova responded for the 11th tied score of the match. China went on counter-attack to score followed by an ROC equaliser at 16-16. ROC captain Ekaterina Prokofyeva, playing her fourth Olympic Games, alongside Nadezhda Glyzina — No 6 and 7 in history — fired in a missile from the top for 17-16. She pushed the ROC score to 18 after a timeout and on extra at 2:16. Chinese captain Xiaohan Mei pulled back one from the top at 1:48 and was soon fouled out of the match. China had a chance with a timeout at 11 seconds, but the pass was intercepted and ROC had the two points.
Match 4, 18:50, Group B, CHINA 17 RUSSIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE 18
Quarters: 6-5, 4-4, 4-5, 3-4
Referees: Mary-Claude Deslieres (CAN), Michiel Zwart (NED).
Shots: CHN: 17/32. ROC: 18/32
Extra Man: CHN: 6/7. ROC: 10/13.
Pens: CHN: 1/1. ROC: 0/1.