Changing China

Giant on the move

A contact sport with a vengeance

August 21, 2008

water poloIs there a more violent Olympic sport than water polo? Down at the Yingdong Natatorium it looked like the last scene of “Jaws” with all that water churning frenetically.

It looks tough enough on the surface. Lord knows what is happening under the water. This is a contact sport with a vengeance.

The exclusion rules — a free throw is granted and the offender excluded for 20 seconds — say it all. Exclusion fouls include intentionally splashing water in an opponent’s face, kicking or striking them, using foul language to the referee and “committing an act of brutality”.

The first casualty when I watched it the other day was Italy’s Elisa Casanova in a bruising encounter with China. “After two minutes, Elisa took a hit to her nose and could not play for the rest of the match,” said coach Mauro Maugeri.

The encounter between Australia and the United States was a classic no-holds barred contest with the Americans squeaking home narrow 9-8 winners in the last minute. Australia’s Emma Knox was the first to admit “it does get pretty rough. Pretty much whatever you can get away with that the referee can’t see, you get away with.”

PHOTO: Anett Timea Gyore of Hungary (R) fights for the ball with Alette Sijbring (L) of the Netherlands during their women’s semi-final water polo match at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 19, 2008. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

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