On the strength of their diving group, the Chinese still lead the overall medal table through 5 days of competition, with Russia’s Synchro team having them 2nd. In total, 7 different countries have won gold medals thus far, and from every continent aside from Oceania/Australia.
The lone medal given out on the 5th day of competition in Barcelona (Wednesday the 24th) came in synchronized swimming. Specifically, that was in the solo free routine final (which is a reminder to us all that they are not synchronized with each other by definition, rather they are to be synchronized with the music, though the latter often involves the former in team events).
In that event, Russia’s Svetlana Romashina grabbed her 3rd gold medal in four events so far, with an astonishing score of 97.430. She has established herself as the best synchronized swimmer in the world, after the retirement of her former teammate Natalia Ishchenko, as she adds this victory to ones in the solo technical routine and the duet technical routine.
Romashina did not compete as part of the team competition.
China added a third silver medal, with Huang Cuechen finishing with a score of 95.720, and Spain’s Ona Carbonell earned bronze in 94.290. That made an identical podium to what we saw in the individual technical event.
Men’s Water Polo
There was one blowout, and one nailbiter in the second round of group A. Greece topped New Zealand by a score of 24-4 in the early match to take control of the group. Behind 6 goals from Ioannis Fountoulis and a high-flying attack that saw six players put up multiple tallies, the Greeks dominated this match from start-to-finish.
The Greeks won this match in very much a different way than their opener against Montenegro, which included drawing 14 exclusion fouls (9 of which came at 2 meters).
In the group’s other match, a struggling Montenegro team managed to barely slip by Spain thanks to an impressive second-half defensive performance by margin of 7-5. In front of 2,800 fans, which is by far the biggest we’ve seen yet at this tournament, it’s clear that with both men’s and women’s teams playing well that the native Spaniards are getting behind their teams.
Spain was in the lead at the half, but in the final two quarters they couldn’t put a single shot past Montenegro’s goalkeeper Zdravko Radic.
Montenegro has been very offensively challenged in this meet, despite coming off of a 4th place finish in the Olympics and a 3rd-place finish at the World League earlier this year. They have almost stimied themselves, giving up 10 man-up opportunities and a penalty shot in this match (it’s hard to score a lot when you spend that much time in defensive 6-on-5 situations, plus commit 17 offensive fouls).
The scenario in this group is that Greece and Spain will play to probably decide the group on Friday. If Greece wins that match, or loses close,then they take the group. If Spain wins the match by more than 5 and Montenegro doesn’t do anything really nuts against New Zealand, then they win the group.
If Spain wins, Montenegro could still take that top seed in the knockout stage by a total slaughter of New Zealand, but thus far it doesn’t seem like they’ve got the offensive firepower to do what they need to do there.
The winner of the group gets to play South Africa in the first round, which is by far the most desirable situation to be in. That’s because there’s not many other easy roads against group B, with the USA, Canada, and Croatia at the top.
The Americans put up a rout of the South Africans in their second match, taking a 16-3 margin.
That included 5 goals from veteran John Mann, who plays for the reigning European champions VK Crvena Zvezda. The 6’6″ center is a monster at two meters, as he put in four of those 6 goals out of set, and did so in just 17 minutes in the field.
Tony Azevedo came alive a bit in this match as well, scoring a pair of goals of his own. He also took three steals in the defensive effort for the Americans.
They will close the group stage against Canada, a match in which they’re favored but not by a huge margin after the Canadians have looked good so far in this tournament as well.
In the other 2nd-round matchup in Group B, Croatia topped those Canadians 13-8. The match was played fairly evenly for the last three quarters, but the Croatians got out to an early 3-0 lead, which the Canadians could never quite cut close enough to give themselves a chance.
Neither goaltender was particularly strong, as Josip Pavic from Croatia and Robin Randall from Canada let in around 60% of the shots presented to them on cage.
The Canadians were making a strong push in the 4th quarter, and though it didn’t really affect their overall play, they missed a big opportunity in the 3 period when Kevin Graham, who played a full 32 minutes, missed on a penalty shot.
With Croatia playing South Africa in their final match, they will probably move to 3-0 and take the group, which means a first-round matchup against New Zealand in the tournament phase. With Montenegro limping in group A, and both Spain and Greece playing very well, there’s really a no-win situation for the Americans and Canadians in their final match, though out of the three, Spain is probably the preferred opponent, but only by a small margin.
Group C is the most competitive of this tournament, with only one match out of four thus far being separated by more than three goals.
In round 2, Australia defeated their Pacific neighbors from China 9-7, though the score only got that close in the 4th quarter where China went on a furious 4-1 run to make things interesting.
Both teams played fairly clean matches defensively, not allowing much out of center or man-up situations: despite a total of 20 exclusion fouls in total, only 5 man-up shots were put to the test of the goaltenders.
Australia got three goals from Rhys Howden, all from the wings, though his fellow starter Aaron Younger was 0-for-7 on his day.
The Chinese scoring load was balanced, with only one man scoring a pair: Jian Zhang, who also put in two from the field.
The other match in this group from Wednesday saw the historic showdown between Serbia and Hungary: a pair of teams that often find themselves sharing a podium at major international events.
This match had everything in it. The 4th quarter saw the Serbians really step on the throats of the Hungarians, with 4 goals and a penalty shot.
The match, in front of 1000 fans (a huge crowd for a non-home-team setup in the group stage), almost erupted into riots, when the goal of Martin Szivos on a man-up possession was originally disallowed, but then overturned. Both teams took huge advantage of those man-up situations, showing why they’re the best teams in the world: Serbian scored 7 goals on 10 shots, and Hungary scored 7 goals on 11 shots.
The leading scorers for the eventual winners were Slobodan Nikic and Andrija Prlainovic, who put in three a piece, but the man-of-the-match honor wil undoubtedly go to Filip Filipovic. The 26-year old found out after the match that his wife had given birth to his first child as he helped his team conquer the mighty Hungarians.
These two teams would only face off again in this tournament if both made it to the finals, which is well within the realm of possibility. If so, it would be a great way to end the tournament.
That victory sealed the group for Serbia headed into their last match against winless China, while Hungary and Australia will play out for 2nd. The winner gets to play the last-place team in Group D (the “group of death” in this tournament). The Romanians are currently 0-2 in Group D, despite finishing 10th at last year’s Olympics.
Kazakhstan, who has a large water polo push behind them after hosting last year’s World League finals, may have annointed themselves as Asia’s top program on Wednesday with a 7-4 win over Romania.
Neither team could do much offensively, but Kazakhstan got a huge explosion from their bench, who put in four goals (including a pair by Yevgeniy Medvedev in 12 minutes of action).
Meanwhile, Italy topped Germany in a similar nail-biter 10-8, with Germany making a bit of noise with three goals in the final period.
The possession was fairly even in this match, save for the 4th quarter as the Italians tried to run out the clock on the German rally. The Italians got two goals a piece from Alex Girogetti, Valentino Gallo, Christian Presciutti, and Matteo Aicardi.
This group is still very-much up in the air, with only the Romanians having been eliminated from winning (though not from placing 3rd) in the group.