Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
watch listen BBC Sport BBC Sport
UK version International version About the versions|Low graphics|Help
Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 May, 2004, 14:09 GMT 15:09 UK
Hungarian hold on gold
Hungary's Tomas Kasas in action in the 2000 Olympic final
Hungary won gold - again - in 2000
Water polo is the longest running team sport in Olympic history having been introduced in 1900.

The game was initially played in the mid-19th century and was, quite literally, polo in the water with players sitting astride barrels while pushing the ball goalwards with a paddle.

Within 40 years the game had developed into the form recognisable today.

By the turn of the century rules had been written down and the game was ready for the Olympics.

There was only one problem, the set up within individual countries was not.

In the first two Olympics at which the sport was included club sides were allowed to enter which resulted in the USA achieving the seemingly impossible feat of winning gold, silver and bronze in 1904.

Great Britain set the early standards winning four of the five golds on offer, but it is the Hungarians who are the overall masters of the pool.

They have won seven golds and a grand total of 13 medals, including a spell of success between 1928 and 1956 when they reached seven finals, winning five.

Tarzan - aka Johnny Weissmuller - won a bronze medal in 1924, the same day he won two swimming golds
One of their most monumental victories came en route to the 1956 title in Melbourne in a match against the Soviet Union dubbed "Blood in the Water".

The Hungarians, furious at the Soviet invasion of their country weeks earlier, played to the limits of the laws and sometimes beyond, openly brawling with their opponents.

Officials stopped the game early with Hungary ahead and the Soviets left with a police escort.

Hungary continued to win medals at every Games through to 1980, and after a barren 20 years, 24 since their last gold, they finally took the top step of the podium again in 2000 with victory over Russia.

Exactly 100 years after the men made their Olympic debut, women finally got the chance to play on the same stage, making a big splash with a memorable final.

Australia, buoyed on by the partisan Sydney support, looked to have let the match slip when the USA equalised with 13 seconds remaining.

However, home heroine Yvette Higgins was on hand to crack in the winner with just 1.13 seconds on the clock to cap a sensational first tournament.

Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
Men (since 1900; top five)
Hungary 7 3 3 13
Great Britian 4 0 0 4
Yugoslavia 3 4 1 8
Italy 3 1 2 6
Soviet Union 2 2 4 8
Women (since 2000)
Australia 1 0 0 1
USA 0 1 0 1
Russia 0 0 1 1

Links to more History stories



E-mail services | Sport on mobiles/PDAs


Back to top

Sport Homepage | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League | Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Snooker | Horse Racing | Cycling | Disability Sport | US Sport | Other Sport | Olympics 2004

Scores & Fixtures | Have Your Say | Photo Galleries | TV/Radio Listings

Sport Relief 2004 | Fun and Games | Question of Sport | BBC Sport Plus

Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales

BBC Sport Academy >> | BBC News >> | BBC Weather >>
About the BBC | News sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy | Contact us
banner watch listen bbc sport