No doubt water polo is a tough sport, but it was even tougher when it first started.
When the sport first started, the games resembled rugby played on land. And hence, this gave the sport its first name – water rugby. As the sport placed greater emphasis on brute strength than on athletic skill, it was not uncommon for players to go unconscious during the game.
Fortunately over the past decades, stringent rules have been enforced to curb the display violent acts during games. Today, water polo games adopt the European style that is less dangerous yet faster.
Here are some fun facts of water polo:
Water polo was the first Olympic team sport
In 1900, water polo debuted as the first team sport to be competing at the modern Olympic Games. However, it was strictly kept as a men’s sport due to the game’s inherent violence.
It then took a hundred years before women’s water polo tournament was eventually introduced at the 2000 Summer Olympics.
An amalgamation of different sports
To formulate water polo as a sport, the best elements of soccer, basketball and hockey were integrated.
Like soccer, goalies take on the task to defend a netted goal.
Like basketball, the sport involves driving, setting picks and working to get inside lanes.
Like hockey, water polo players can be temporarily ejected into a “penalty box” at the discreet of referee’s judgement.
Field of play
The minimum depth of water required to hold a water polo match has to be at LEAST 1.8 metres. Players are not allowed to touch the pool’s bottom and hence, much treading is involved in a water polo game. As such, water polo players practise an unique kicking technique called egg beater to help them keep afloat without compromising on mobility and at minimum energy expenditure.
Test of physical endurance and stamina
Typically, a water polo player swims an accumulative distance of at least 2.4 kilometres in a game. A water polo ball was estimated to be able to speed up to 100 kilometres per hour!
Water polo players don coloured swim caps for identification. The cap also doubles as a protection for the player’s ear with the design of unique plastic cups that cover their ear holes.
At the Olympics, players wear specially designed suits that are catered for water polo. This suit features a firm fit which offers opposing player extra fabric to grab yet is somewhat slick, hence making it a challenge for opposing player to grab hold of a swimmer.
Photo courtesy of Mid-Peninsula Water Polo Club