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Date
23 Sep 2000
Tags
Sydney 2000

Australia clinch last-gasp water polo title

Water polo had featured on the Olympic programme since 1900, but it was only a century later that women entered the fray, and they marked their debut with a terrifically exciting competition.


Water polo had featured on the Olympic programme since 1900, but it was only a century later that women entered the fray, and they marked their debut with a terrifically exciting competition.

The knock-out games were all close, decided by a single goal and including plenty of memorable performances. The favourites, Australia and the USA, both made it to the final, but only after surviving a few scares. The Americans edged out the Netherlands 6-5 in their semi-final, having recovered from being 5-3 behind. In the other semi-final the Australians were within 90 seconds of losing to Russia before Naomi Castle equalised. Demoralised, the Russians conceded again just 40 seconds later to hand the hosts a 7-6 victory.

The final attracted a crowd of 17,000 spectators, most of whom were, of course, supporting Australia. But after a high-quality and hard-fought period of play it was the USA who led 2-1 at half-time.

Both teams were fighting for every ball and it was clear that the match would be close until the end. Australia's Bronwyn Mayer scored early in the third period to bring the scores level at 2-2. Going into the fourth and final period, the scores were still level until Castle again scored a crucial goal for the home team.
 
That looked sure to be the decisive score as the match entered its closing moments, but then a shot from the USA’s Brenda Villa somehow eluded everyone and bobbed into the goal. The match now seemed sure to go into overtime to decide the winner.

However, with just 1.3 seconds left on the clock, the Americans conceded a foul and there was some confusion about where the offence had taken place. The US team were not prepared for a direct shot at goal – and were completely caught out when Australia’s Yvette Higgins fired a fierce shot straight into the net, giving Australia the gold medal by a score of 4-3.

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