In water polo, each player
swims approximately two miles in a single game.
THE GRUELING CHALLENGE OF WATER POLO
Before the Atlanta Olympics, I have to admit that I
never thought one iota about water polo. And then, in Atlanta, I was
paid to think about water polo. I quickly learned that it was English
in origin, created in the mid-19th century, and is essentially what one
gets when boxing mixes with basketball (and perhaps a touch of
wrestling) in the water. It made its Olympic debut in 1900 in Paris,
and has been in every Olympic Games since; women's water polo appeared
for the first time in Sydney, and continues here in Athens.
For the unseasoned, it is not an easy sport to follow -
it involves a tremendous amount of splashing and several covered heads
bobbing around in the water furiously, trying to control a yellow ball
and get it into the net. Players are not allowed to touch any part of
the pool for duration of play, and may only touch the ball with one
hand at a time. This makes water polo a grueling athletic challenge.
Indeed, each player swims approximately two miles in a single game, and
will lose up to 10 pounds throughout a single Olympic tournament.
On the infield of the Closing Ceremony in Atlanta, I
introduced myself to a lot of the water polo players, having felt like
I already knew them. In Sydney, Kyle Kopp
actually remembered me when I ran into him one night in a pub, and we
spent the evening catching up. At 6 foot 8, he towered over me, proud
to be the largest player on the U.S. squad. So today, I hauled myself
out of bed and on very little sleep went to the Aquatic Center in OAKA
to see USA men's water polo play Kazakhstan. From my seat, I instantly
Wigo, whom I knew from Sydney and Atlanta, hurling the ball at
some 45 miles per hour. He scored four goals, the U.S. won 9-6, the
nearly capacity crowd yelled its head off, and I yet again chose sports
Kyle Kopp poses with Dr.
.at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
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