After 17 years of returning to the Games, Canada’s women’s water polo team meets American power in the quarterfinals
It will be a David vs. Goliath encounter when the Canadian women’s water polo team faces the United States in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics.
The Americans are two-time Olympic champions, taking the competition by storm with back-to-back gold medals from Rio 2016 and London 2012.
Meanwhile, Canada entered the tournament hungry after persevering on a 17-year trip just to return to the Games.
In the last women’s appearance in Athens 2004, the Canadians did not advance to the quarter-finals and were seventh. In fact, the best female performance was in Sydney 200, where Canada placed fifth in the women’s competition’s first appearance as an Olympic event.
The United States will enter the quarter-finals with fresh legs after a three-day hiatus from the competition.
If they are to have the chance to play for a medal, Canada will need to bounce back from their most recent loss to the Netherlands and challenge the Americans.
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Canada finishes 4th in Group A
The Canadians claimed their only Olympic victory in Tokyo against South Africa in their third game of the tournament, with a 21-1 victory. Canada started the tournament 0-2, losing to Australia and Spain. They lost their last game 16-12 to the Netherlands, but their 1-3 record was enough to get them to the quarter-finals.
Kyra Christmas of High River, Alta., Has been the team’s top scorer, accumulating 10 goals so far. Four goals were scored in the game against the Netherlands, the only other Canadian to score four in a single game in Tokyo being Gurpreet Sohi of Delta, BC.
And while this is the Canadians’ very first Olympic quarterfinal game, that doesn’t mean they haven’t felt the satisfying weight of a medal around their necks.
Among their accomplishments, the team won silver at the 2017 FINA World League Super Final in Shanghai, China, and a silver medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
The women qualified for the Tokyo Olympics after another silver medal at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima. The United States won gold.
As the Canadians climbed the FINA Women’s Water Polo World Rankings to tie sixth with Australia, the Americans have dominated first place since 2009.
Canada will face the United States at the Tatsumi Water Polo Center on Tuesday.
USA has top Olympian in water polo
The United States hasn’t shown much weakness in the tournament so far. He finished the preliminary round at the top of Group B. His only loss came against Hungary – another country with a history of water polo excellence, but which will want to step onto the podium after three consecutive fourth places.
It was the US team’s first loss at the Olympics since losing to the Netherlands in the gold medal game in 2008.
US coach Adam Krikorian said the team spent time trying to get back to playing the “right way” with the “right decisions” after Hungary claimed their daring 10-9 victory.
“A lot has been said and felt a lot, especially as I think about the emotions,” he said. “It’s an extremely competitive group. They don’t like to lose and part of the reason we’ve had this sustained success is that they just take pride in the way they play.”
The bruised pride didn’t appear to shake their confidence, with the United States rallying to defeat the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) 18-5 in the team’s final group game.
Maggie Steffens of the United States became the all-time top scorer in Olympic women’s water polo in that game – just two games after sustaining a broken nose in their 12-7 win over China. She has scored 49 goals in three Olympic games.
“It’s great, it’s beautiful. It doesn’t matter if it’s broken, the spirit is alive, and you know that’s the purpose of the Games,” said Steffens.
“It’s a sign of a great player. She doesn’t force the issue, she lets the game come to her, and especially in this situation where you know the record is looming,” said Krikorian.
The United States opened their tournament with a 25-4 loss to host nation Japan.
The other three matches have Spain against China, the Netherlands against Hungary and Australia against ROC.