Colombia men joined their women’s team as winners of the 2021 FINA Challengers’ Cup water polo tournament in Barranquilla, Colombia on Sunday. In doing so, Colombia became the first dual winner of the event after claiming the inaugural crown in Kuwait City in 2007. In the women’s bronze-medal decider, Puerto Rico won a penalty shootout 3-2 for a 15-14 margin over Venezuela.
Colombia scorched its way to a second crown on the final day of the FINA Challengers’ Cup, defeating Puerto Rico 13-4. Ironically it was in 2007 that the teams last met in the final with Colombia also winning that day.
The match was always going to go Colombia’s way as it won the round clash 16-8 and had only become better as the week progressed. Puerto Rico also improved and made it hard for Colombia in the first half, trailing 3-1 at the quarter and 6-3 at halftime. However, at 5-3, when Puerto Rican centre forward Felipe Echeverry lobbed the advancing goalkeeper for the first of his three goals, the match was proving interesting.
The second half was all about Colombia and its counter-attacking plays, winning the third 3-1 and shutting out Puerto Rico 4-0 in the final quarter. The 10-4 counter-attack goal by Steven Montoya — his third of the match — was a blessing after his team blundered two previous attempts. When Steven Sanchez backhanded from two metres for 11-4, the writing was well and truly on the wall. Two final goals, including the last on counter by Enzo Salinas, sealed the match.
Gilberto Millan struck twice for Puerto Rico in a good week for him.
In the women’s bronze-medal encounter, it came down to a penalty shootout in an obviously exciting match.
The match started at a great rate and was tied at all the numbers to six before Puerto Rico took the halftime lead at 7-6. Venezuela had its centre forward unfortunately shoot over the crossbar on the last attack. Milena Guzman, who had scored in the second quarter, then went on the rampage with four goals, taking her team to 8-6, 9-6, 10-7 and 11-8 as her team settled into the final quarter with a narrow 11-9 advantage.
For Venezuela, Samantha Torres was keeping busy with four goals before the final break. Andrea Cardona took the margin to 12-9 early in the quarter while no goal came for another five minutes. Then Venezuela, who had missed a penalty attempt, blasted in twice in 33 seconds, through extra-man attack and centre forward with 1:57 remaining. Venezuela took a timeout on its final attack, gained an exclusion and scored the equaliser through the indefatigable Torres from the top left at 0:19, which forced the shootout.
Venezuela won the toss and shot first (Torres with her sixth goal), netting twice to Puerto Rico’s one for 13-14. Both teams missed, Puerto Rico levelled; three shooters failed to score and Guzman had the last say, converting the 10th shot for the 15-14 Puerto Rico victory.
Despite Covid-19 restricting the numbers who could attend the event, it was good to see Kuwait men and Thailand women make the long journey. For Colombia, it was a successful conclusion to a wonderful tournament. Commiserations to Venezuela for not winning a match despite coming so close in the women’s bronze.
Women: Bronze medal: Puerto Rico 15 Venezuela 14 in penalty shootout. FT: 12-12. Pens: 3-2 (4-3, 3-3, 4-3, 1-3. Pens: 3-2).
Men: Gold medal: Puerto Rico 4 Colombia 13 (1-3, 2-3, 1-3, 0-4).
Men: Colombia, Puerto Rico, Kuwait, Venezuela.
Women: Colombia, Thailand, Puerto Rico, Venezuela.
Most Valuable Player: Angel Rosado (POR) with TWPC Vice Chairman Mark Koganov.
Best Goalkeeper: Mulla Mohammad (KUW).
Highest Goal-scorer: Steven Sanchez (COL), 15. with TWPC Member Ken Kuroda.
Most Valuable Player: Maria Restrepo (COL).
Best Goalkeeper: Sara Agudelo (COL) with TWPC Member Monica Brochero.
Highest Goal-scorer: Susana Atehortua (COL), 21.