Water polo isn’t just a game to be played in the pool on holiday – this is a serious sport, with Olympic gold medals up for grabs! And only strong swimmers need apply.
While the men’s tournament has been part of the Games since 1900, female players had to wait a whole century until they could participate, with the women’s game only arriving at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
But how does the sport work at this level? And which countries tend to do well?
RadioTimes.com brings you up to speed with everything you need to know about water polo at the Olympics 2020 in Tokyo in the summer of 2021. Plus check out what’s on with our guide to the Olympics on TV today.
When is water polo at the Olympics?
Water polo runs from Saturday 24th July all the way until Sunday 8th August.
Medal finals will take place on the final two days of the long-running contest: the women on the 7th, the men on the 8th.
Check out our guide on how to watch Olympics 2020 or see Olympics on TV today for more details, timings, and exclusive expert analysis from some of the biggest names in world sport over the coming weeks.
Sir Chris Hoy, Beth Tweddle, Rebecca Adlington, Matthew Pinsent and Dame Jess Ennis-Hill are among the stars we have to being their esteemed opinions, so don’t miss what they have to say.
Find out how you can watch the Tokyo 2020 Olympics closing ceremony.
What are the rules for water polo?
Two teams play each other in matches made up of four quarters, each lasting eight minutes.
Each team consists of six players and one goalkeeper in the pool, with substitutes on the bench, and the aim is to get the ball past the opposing goalie and into the net (ignore the word “polo”, it’s basically a water-based cross between basketball and football).
The team to score the most goals is the winner.
There is a men’s and a women’s tournament but no mixed tournament as yet.
In each competition, there’s a round-robin group stage to be played before the knock out stages and eventual finals.
Which Team GB athletes will compete in Olympic water polo?
Team GB was a dominant force in the early days of Olympic water polo, taking the gold medal in 1900, 1908, 1912 and 1920.
Unfortunately, our teams haven’t fared as well since then, and the last time we competed was at London 2012, only qualifying then because we were the host nation.
Despite sending our largest ever squad to an overseas Olympics this summer, we are not sending a team to compete in either the men’s or the women’s event.
Water polo is one of a handful of sports we haven’t qualified for, with others including basketball, surfing, karate and wrestling. You can’t win them all!
Which country has won the most water polo Olympic medals?
Have a guess – we think you’ll be surprised!
The most successful water polo nation is actually Hungary, who have won 15 medals in the long-running men’s tournament, including nine gold, three silver and three bronze.
Great Britain is surprisingly in second on the medal table for the men’s game at the Olympics, but the most recent of our four gold medals did come quite some time ago, in 1920, so we’re basking in our former glory!
Honourable mentions go to Italy, the first and only country to triumph in both the men’s and the women’s game, and the United States who have a brilliant track record in the women’s competition.
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